Goldfish can recognise classical music

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Do you know your Bach from your Stravinsky? It would appear that goldfish do…

A new study reveals that goldfish can tell the difference between music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and Igor Stravinsky.

In the study, conducted at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, goldfish were divided into two groups and trained to bite a red bead when played short sections of either Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor or Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Between each 20-second clip, the music was muted for varying amounts of time, so the clips the fish heard in each session weren't always the same.

Researchers then trained four of them to bite on the red bead when they were played one of the pieces of music, but not when the other was playing.

The result? The fish distinguished between the two pieces of music 75% of the time, although it apparently took over 100 training sessions for those results to be achieved.

And in other sessions, when played different pieces of music by the same composers that they hadn't heard before, researchers found the goldfish didn't react at all, showing no signs of recognition and swimming about randomly.

"We can conclude that goldfish discriminate between Bach’s and Stravinsky’s music," Dr. Kazutaka Shinozuka, who led the research, told the Telegraph.

"Of course music is artificial stimuli made by humans, so music itself does not have specific meaning for goldfish. But music consists of complex acoustic features. Ability to discriminate such complex auditory stimuli might be beneficial for fish in an evolutionary sense."

In another experiment, which involved six goldfish, the researchers found the fish had no strong preference for any type of music, although some did show individual tastes - one of them avoiding Stravinsky, another avoiding Bach and preferring Stravinsky instead.

The research is published in the journal Behavioural Processes.

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