New Research Finds Your Fish Dinner Had a Personality

Dennis Faas's picture

Here's one that will make you think twice before dipping your fork into a moist fish fillet tonight at dinner time: according to Canadian researchers, some fish actually display personality traits. It provides new insight into a debate that has often dismissed the slippery creatures as completely different from livestock.

Does this mean semi-vegetarians should take notice?

Perhaps. The research was conducted on Canadian brook trout, regular, ordinary fish by all standards. According to University of Guelph scientists, the trout exhibited notable personalities; some were decidedly social, some risk-takers, and some frightened of just about everything. That last one is probably not so unexpected for a creature that faces predators almost every day.

The personalities of the fish are generally associated with their lunch practices. According to Guelph biologist Rob McLaughlin, "We've known that out in the field, these young brook trout examine differences in their foraging behaviour -- what they're feeding on." That usually means the slower, heavier fish are those that remain close to shore, while the marathon runners of the fish world skirt about in open water. (Source:

So, how else do these researchers gauge personality in fish?

McLaughlin's study examined the activity of fish by placing them in a dark tube in an aquarium. Those that were deemed more active escaped that pitch-black tunnel first, reaching the main body of the tank. To the researchers, that made these fish risk-takers, ready to take on new environments before others. (Source:

As you can tell, the research team is still struggling a bit to find true meaning to its findings. And yet, McLaughlin remains convinced the work has deep significance. "The recognition that behavioural syndromes exist in a wide range of animal species is a key development in the understanding of animal behaviour...The significance of these findings, and of other studies dealing with behavioural syndromes, is that we cannot assume that all animals in a population fit into precisely the same niche, or that they will all show the same degree of flexibility."

For more information, check out the research in the journal "Animal Behaviour".

Oh, and enjoy that dinner fish whilst pondering the question: "I wonder if we had something in common?"

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