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Loach emotion.

Posted By: Martin Thoene <martin.thoene@lakenheath.af.mil>
Date: Saturday, 23 January 1999, at 2:56 p.m.

I've just seen an interesting TV programme on research into Animal emotion and feelings. It basically started with stating that people have often thought that being too anthropamorphic (conveying humaness)to animals, confuses our perceptions of how they think. It then showed that at certain levels animals are actually quite like humans in their reactions to certain things.

All reasonably advanced animals share the same basic, inherant, automatic fear and danger trigger systems that dictate fight or flight reaction, and release of
adrenalin into the system that allows, instant, automatic reaction as a survival

Also, interestingly, they share the release of dopamine, at the stimulus of something pleasurable, and this increases the pleasurable sensations. They showed that Coral-reef fish that attended cleaning stations manned by cleaner wrasse, whilst gaining benefit by removal of parasites and dead skin, also actually get pleasurable sensations. Just like us getting a good back-rub! In an aquarium they used a model cleaner wrasse, and the other fish gathered near it. They found that any colour of model got the same reaction, mounted on a wire so the researcher could rub the other fish with it. They therefore deduced that the tactile stimulation was what the fish liked, and indeed would react the same to just the bare wire! So maybe those of us that regularly "pet" our fish are actually doing something they really like.

This all set me thinking about some of the recent posts about Clown Pods and suchlike. The programme stated that animals with a social structure are dependant on one another and require constant reinforcement of their bonds to one another, part of which is touching. If you've watched any of the Botia species that school, you'll have seen little touches and strokes as fish greet or pass one another. Clowns jamming themselves into small places to sleep again forces close contact, and no doubt the feeling of pleasure through security. If a member of the group dies or is removed it is missed and mourned in higher animals that have these tight social bonds, so why not the same in fish?
We see the pecking order in our Botia groups that exists, for instance in Baboons, The programme showed that an Alpha male can evoke fear and sadness in lower ranking members, by mentally harassing them by his close prescence, preventing them challenging his authority, without resorting to violence. This works when the dominance has been verified by defeat in a fight previously. So maybe our Botia's sparring is the verification of who is dominant, and maybe the cases we hear of one of the group being sulky, and possibly a bit of a loner, and a poor feeder, is just a sad loach because of mental pressure from the dominant one.

WE KNOW that our Botias aren't just dumb fish, but maybe they are more like us than we realise!


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