Monday, May 03, 2010

How to tell if a fish is scared when you aren't a fish yourself

Boy, talk about gaps in the fossil record! It's been nearly a year since my last post. And in any case I didn't work on the touch-me-not plant. I actually worked on signalling in potatoes. Specifically, trying to figure out how the molecule that tells the plant to start forming tubers gets to the tuberization site. Unfortunately, that didn't go very far. I barely started standardizing some experiments and my time was up.

Anyway, new year, new project. I've got bigger fish to fry this time.

Scratch that.

I've got fish to fry. Okay, not fry, but study. This time I'm going to look at how to study anxiety in fish. When we're modelling behavioural responses in other animals, the closer they are to humans, the easier it is to draw direct inferences from observations to human behaviour. However, you can't keep a lab full of monkeys for all your studies for purely practical reasons (and there's the other matter of PETA sloganeering). So people have done a huge amount of work with rats and mice.

Recently though, it's been found that for certain kinds of responses, fish brains are more like humans than mice are. Plus fish are much, much easier to maintain in a lab than mice ever will be, which is a huge advantage.

The thing with behaviour studies is that you need to account for everything. I mean but everything. How regularly the fish are fed, what the temperature of the water is, how much light they get in a day (fish also follow a daily light-dark cycle). And these are only the major, obvious points to look out for. A slight variation in the daily routine can render half your results unusable, so I need to be extra careful (as always!)

Oh, and a friend forwarded me this link. If only teachers here would come up with more interesting assignments!

1 comment:

Vetri said...

Admired your writings!!!

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