'Challenging at first': Scientists teach goldfish how to drive a 'fish-operated vehicle'

If teaching your 16-year-old how to drive was rough, imagine how tough it is to teach a goldfish.

In a peer-reviewed study published in December, scientists aimed to do just that by training goldfish to drive a "fish-operated vehicle" or FOV to study the navigating mechanisms of the species. 

Six different goldfish got behind the wheel of the FOV that was operated by a camera system to record and translate the fish's movements into forward, backward and side-to-side directions to the wheels, according to a press release from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. 

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"The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment. Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in an environment completely unlike the one they evolved in," Shachar Givon, an author of the study, said in the release.

Each fish was put into the FOV – equipped with a fish tank – at different locations in a room and tasked with a goal to drive to a visual target. If they steered to the target, they were rewarded with a fish pellet.

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To the scientists' amazement, the goldfish successfully reached the target after a few days of training, no matter what position they started in or if they were interrupted by hitting a wall or by false targets, according to the release. 

 "As anyone who has tried to learn how to ride a bike or to drive a car knows, it is challenging at first," Givon said. 

Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: [email protected]

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Goldfish taught to drive by scientists studying navigation patterns

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