Archerfish Recognize Human Faces

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Archerfish Recognize Human Faces

Postby Kovu » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:36 pm

According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, fish can discriminate between human faces.

"Being able to distinguish between a large number of human faces is a surprisingly
difficult task, mainly due to the fact that all human faces share the same basic
features," said study lead author Dr. Cait Newport, a researcher at the
University of Oxford.

"All faces have two eyes above a nose and mouth, therefore to tell people apart
we must be able to identify subtle differences in their features. If you consider the
similarities in appearance between some family members, this task can be very
difficult indeed."

"It has been hypothesized that this task is so difficult that it can only be
accomplished by primates, which have a large and complex brain. The fact that the
human brain has a specialized region used for recognizing human faces suggests that
there may be something special about faces themselves."

"To test this idea, we wanted to determine if another animal with a smaller and
simpler brain, and with no evolutionary need to recognize human faces, was still able
to do so."

The study authors found that archerfish (Toxotes chatareus) are capable of discriminating one face from up to 44 new faces. The archerfish (which are known for their ability to spit jets of water to shoot down aerial prey) were presented with two images of human faces and trained to choose one of them using their jets. Later, when presented with the learned face and a series of new faces, the fish were able to select the face they had initially learned to recognize.

"Using a two-alternative forced-choice procedure, we show that archerfish
(Toxotes chatareus) can learn to discriminate a large number of human face images, even
after controlling for color, head-shape and brightness," the scientists said.

"This study not only demonstrates that archerfish have impressive pattern discrimination
abilities, but also provides evidence that a vertebrate lacking a neocortex and without an
evolutionary prerogative to discriminate human faces, can nonetheless do so to a high
degree of accuracy."

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Re: Archerfish Recognize Human Faces

Postby V-Raptor » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:50 am

That's pretty fascinating. Recognizing facial patterns wouldn't be that special within species, wasps can recognize other wasps visually IIRC, but a fish being able to recognize human features is not something I'd expect.

Sidenote: I find the mental image of a fish selecting a face by using its water jet very amusing.

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