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In Defiance Of The Laws Of Nature, Scientists Teach Goldfish To Drive On Land

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    It seems that 2022 is going to start on a weird note, which honestly, we're not even surprised by. Why wouldn't this year start with fish driving on land? It only makes sense with everything else that's been happening. And we do mean driving on land - operating a vehicle which just so happens to be a fish tank - and driving around. It's a fish-operated vehicle - or FOV in short, according to new research published in Behavioural Brain Research.

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    As reported by Vice, a report published in the February 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed journal, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, decided to figure out how well goldfish can navigate certain terrestrial environments when given the right tools. They built a small camera-equipped fish tank on wheels - the FOV - and put 6 goldfish in it, one at a time. 

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    The experiment consisted of a number of 30-minute sessions. The scientists would point the device toward a visual target and gave the fish a reward each time it reached said target. They recorded the number of times the fish hit the target, how long it took, and how far the fish traveled along the way. Unbelievably, "the goldfish seemingly took to their new ability to drive on land."

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    Electricity - LIDAR Computer Camera Water tank

    Videos of these amazing sessions were shared by co-author Ronen Segev, @ronen_segev on twitter, and immediately went viral. They were, of course, were met with a whole bunch of dad jokes about fish learning to drive in response. The paper does note that this experiment is not the first one to capture "fish-machine interactions," but it does support the broader understanding of how different species move in environments not meant for them. 

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    "These results demonstrate that the goldfish was able to transfer to a wholly different terrestrial environment and navigate successfully," Segev said in his Twitter thread. The fish managed to avoid dead ends and correct inaccuracies as the trials went on, Segev explains in the thread. In fact, the study explains that all 6 fish got better at meeting their targets in time, suggesting that goldfish are "are capable of learning from novel environments and improving at the efficiency with which they move through them."

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    The paper - as mentioned - underscored that goldfish not only can operate a vehicle, i.e. drive, but they can actually drive on land - which is obviously not an ecosystem that they were evolved to understand. The findings of the study contribute to a broader scientific arena the researchers call "domain transfer methodology" -  the study of how one animal species navigates the environment of a different one.

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    "Further studies are needed to extend these findings to more complex scenery such as an open terrestrial environment," the authors write in the paper. "The findings nevertheless suggest that the way space is represented in the fish brain and the strategies it uses may be as successful in a terrestrial environment as they are in an aquatic one."

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    Of course, we are very glad about the scientific findings and the amazing steps we're taking toward understanding animals better. But, for us, honestly, we're just sitting here, giggling and imagining being in that campus, eating lunch outside on the grass, and seeing a literal fish tank rolling around the campus. That's… something that we wish we could have seen. 

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