Goldfish can recognise classical music

30 August 2013, 17:31

They may be famous for their short memory span, but goldfish can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky, according to a new study.

Scientists played four goldfish Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, training them to bite a red bead in their bowl when they heard the music. They were then trained to bite the bead to one piece and not the other - and were able to identify the piece around three quarters of the time.

Remarkably, the fish were able to identify the music even when played different clips from the same piece. They weren't fast learners though: it took more than 100 training sessions before they could distinguish the pieces at all.

The fish were also tested to see if they recognised other pieces they had never heard before by the same composers, but they swam around randomly when the music wasn't familiar. The researchers, however, think the fish might be able to recognise new music if they were trained with several pieces by the same composer.

The study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes, also reveals that fish, like humans, might even express preferences in what they like to listen to. One fish particularly enjoyed the Bach and attempted to avoid the Stravinsky.