The fish-operated vehicle - given the fancy initialism FOV – used LIDAR (light detection and ranging) systems to map the fish’s movement. If the animal managed to get the vehicle to the other side of the room from different starting positions, and hit the pink target wall, it would receive a pellet as a reward.
Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in southern Israel, wanted to see “whether fish can use the unrecognisable elements [of the FOV] in the new environment for navigation”.
The study was carried out by PhD student Shachar Givon and masters student Matan Samina, alongside professors Ohad Ben-Shahar and Ronen Segev.
In their summary of the research, the authors said: “The fish were tasked to ‘drive’ the FOV towards a visual target in the terrestrial environment, which was observable through the walls of the tank, and indeed were able to operate the vehicle, explore the new environment, and reach the target regardless of the starting point, all while avoiding dead-ends and correcting location inaccuracies.
“The findings nevertheless suggest that the way space is represented in the fish brain and the strategies it uses may be as successful in a terrestrial environment as they are in an aquatic one,” they added.
The team also noted that light was refracted through the water, but this didn’t stop the fish from navigating towards the target.
The study has since been picked up by mainstream outlets, with Jeremy Vine’s coverage of the story being shared by the popular Twitter account Daytime Snaps, which shares bizarre moments from morning and afternoon television programmes.