Here is a callback to Slide 14. What kind of fish might those have been? Simple curiosity initiated a quest as epic as Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole. First, how much can we reasonably expect from a fish, anyway?
Leonor Galhardo wrote that fish are sometimes accused of having no mental experiences because they lack neocortices. Still, they do have neuroendocrine, cognitive and emotional processes that “allow inferring some forms of mental representation.” According to Galhardo,
The integration of psychological elements in fish stress physiology is insufficiently studied, but, as discussed in this article, there is already indirect evidence to admit that some form of stimuli appraisal can take place in fish. This fact has profound implications on the regulation of the stress response…
Do fish even engage in displacement activity? Apparently, some of them do. The male sockeye salmon, for instance, has been observed to dig in a stream during the summer. The source says, “This behavior is considered a displacement activity indicative of the male’s frustration in not being able to spawn.”
His activity is considered to be of the displacement variety, because usually, it is the female salmon who digs the redd, or spawning nest, the depression where the parents will place their eggs and sperm. And also, the female “may dig at a location a short distance away from her redd as a displacement activity.” There is also some talk of cichlid fish using displaced aggression to manage conflict among a group of social fish, but we will not go into that.
Something fishy going on
Why would a fish bounce on its head, which is how the Slide 14 male is described? Maybe it wasn’t actually doing a pointless displacement activity. After all, there is a species where the lady fish buries her eggs, and the male has to burrow into the substrate to fertilize them. A male might get crazy and bounce on his head, but that kind of displacement behavior is supposed to be reserved for when a male challenger comes knocking. But this female willingly offers herself, and most importantly, she has no reason to take umbrage.
Could they be sticklebacks? If so, he even volunteers to kill any offspring that happened to be fertilized by a male inferior to himself, her chosen one — that is how much he respects her. The females are cannibalistic, too, but only with the eggs of other females. They don’t eat their own eggs, and there is no mention of spousal murder.
Why would she slay the fellow who immediately relieves her of child-care responsibilities? He housekeeps the nest, and fans it to prevent sedimentation, and ensure well-oxygenated water for the kids — while she goes on her merry way. He protects the little ones from predators. Some exemplary stickleback dads will even anxiously follow fry who wander away, and bring them back to the nest.
So, these two must not be sticklebacks. Because stickleback women have good sense.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Psychological Stress and Welfare in Fish,” Annual Review of Biomedical Sciences, March 2009
Source: “Focused Collection,” FocusedCollection.com, undated
Source: “Salmon displacement activity,” Salmonography.com, undated
Image by Lake Clark National Park/Public Domain