Could fish be conscious? © Getty Images

Could fish be conscious?

Don’t go teasing your pet fish – the three-second-memory stereotype is a myth.

Asked by: Andrew Smith, London

Advertisement

Consciousness is a mystery. It’s impossible to know what an animal, or even another human, is experiencing. We cannot ask a fish, we can only observe it. Fish can learn and have long memories. When stressed by being held in a net, they display ‘emotional fever’, meaning they increase their body temperature.

So do they feel pain? They have some brain structures similar to ours and also have opioid receptors. And if given anaesthetics, they are less affected by noxious stimuli.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.