Fish can recognize human faces, study shows

Oh hi, this archerfish is probably saying after seeing you

Story highlights

  • Scientists have found fish can recognize patterns in the human face
  • Fish can synthesize more complex information than originally thought

(CNN)Can your pet fish recognize your face?

A new study says, Yes, it probably can.
    Researchers studying archerfish found the fish can tell a familiar human face from dozens of new faces with surprising accuracy.
      This is a big, big deal. It's the first time fish have demonstrated this ability.
      Think about it: All faces have two eyes sitting above a nose and a mouth. And for us to be able to tell them apart, we need to be able to pick up the subtle differences in features.
      We're good at this because we are smart, i.e. we have large and complex brains. Other primates can do this too. Some birds as well.
        But a fish? A fish has a tiny brain. And it would have no reason in its evolution to learn how to recognize humans.
        So this study, published Tuesday in the journal "Scientific Reports," throws on its head all our conventional thinking. It was done by scientists at University of Oxford in the U.K. and the University of Queensland in Australia.
        And, for us, it raises many, many questions:
        Does this mean my pet goldfish knows me? Do fish recognize each other? CAN DORY REALLY FIND NEMO?
        To find out more, we talked to Dr. Cait Newport, a research fellow in Oxford University's zoology department and co-author of the study.
        What were the scientists trying to figure out?
        The scientists wanted to know how well animals with simple brains do with facial recognition. A fish was a good choice. Their brains lack the section that we use for facial recognition. That made them perfect as subjects for an experiment to see if simple brains can perform complex tasks.
        What's an archerfish?
        It's a species of tropical fish. They spit jets of water from their mouth to knock down insects from branches. They're the sharpshooters of the animal kingdom.