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Does leaving water make fish smarter? Terrestrial exposure and exercise improve spatial learning in an amphibious fish
Rossi, G.S.; Wright, P.A. (2021). Does leaving water make fish smarter? Terrestrial exposure and exercise improve spatial learning in an amphibious fish. Proc. - Royal Soc., Biol. Sci. 288(1953): 20210603. https://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0603
In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. The Royal Society: London. ISSN 0962-8452; e-ISSN 1471-2954, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Rossi, G.S.
  • Wright, P.A.

Abstract
    Amphibious fishes transition between aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and must therefore learn to navigate two dramatically different environments. We used the amphibious killifish Kryptolebias marmoratus to test the hypothesis that the spatial learning ability of amphibious fishes would be altered by exposure to terrestrial environments because of neural plasticity in the brain region linked to spatial cognition (dorsolateral pallium). We subjected fish to eight weeks of fluctuating air–water conditions or terrestrial exercise before assessing spatial learning using a bifurcating T-maze, and neurogenesis in the dorsolateral pallium by immunostaining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen. In support of our hypothesis, we found that air–water fluctuations and terrestrial exercise improved some markers of spatial learning. Moreover, air–water and exercised fish had 39% and 46% more proliferating cells in their dorsolateral pallium relative to control fish, respectively. Overall, our findings suggest that fish with more terrestrial tendencies may have a cognitive advantage over those that remain in water, which ultimately may influence their fitness in both aquatic and terrestrial settings. More broadly, understanding the factors that promote neural and behavioural plasticity in extant amphibious fishes may provide insights into how ancestral fishes successfully colonized novel terrestrial environments before giving rise to land-dwelling tetrapods.

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