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Mirrors have revealed something new about manta rays – and it reflects badly on us

LAUREN SMITH: ‘There has been a debate about fish welfare for decades which centres on the question of whether they are sentient or conscious. In other words do fish have an awareness of internal and external stimuli and do they possess the ability for self-recognition/awareness?… In 2016 a study was published by Dr Csilla Ari and Dr Dominic D’Agostino on giant manta rays (Manta birostris), which explored the notion of whether these elasmobranchs could be classed as self-aware…

In the Ari and D’Agostino study, due to the difficulties associated with marking a manta ray, observations were made instead in relation to mirror exposure only. Results showed that the Mantas exhibited unusual and highly repetitive movements, exploratory, contingency checking and self-directed behaviour when exposed to the mirror… Overall, Ari and D’Agostino’s study provides evidence for behavioural responses known to be prerequisites for self-awareness and which have been used by other researchers to confirm self-recognition in ape species.

Given that self-aware species are known to exhibit complex social behaviours, cooperative behaviours and empathic behaviours, this experiment and the other mentioned studies shine a light on the potential cognitive capabilities of fish and calls into question the ethical practices of current fisheries’. SOURCE…

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