BackgroundFlexible spatial memory, such as “place” learning, is an important adaptation to assist successful foraging and to avoid predation and is thought to be more adaptive than response learning which requires a consistent start point. Place learning has been found in many taxonomic groups, including a number of species of fish. Surprisingly, a recent study has shown that zebrafish (Danio rerio), a common species used in cognitive research, demonstrated no significant preference for the adoption of either a place or a response strategy during a plus maze task. That being said, a growing body of research has been looking at how group living influences navigational decisions in animals. This study aims to see how zebrafish, a shoaling species, differ in their ability to perform a maze task when learning in a shoal and as an individual.ResultsResults suggest that shoals of zebrafish are able to learn to perform the spatial memory task in a significantly shorter time than individual fish and appear to show place learning when tested from a novel start point. Interestingly, zebrafish who were trained first in a shoal but were then tested as individuals, did not show the same level of consistency in their choice of navigation strategy.ConclusionsThese findings suggest that shoaling influences navigation behaviour, resulting in faster group learning and convergence on one spatial memory strategy, but does not facilitate the transfer of the strategy learned to individuals within the shoal.
McAroe, C. L., Craig, C., & Holland, R. A. (2017). Shoaling promotes place over response learning but does not facilitate individual learning of that strategy in zebrafish (Danio rerio). African Zoology, 2, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40850-017-0019-9