Some animals have the remarkable capacity for mirror self-recognition (MSR), yet any implications for self-awareness remain uncertain and controversial. This is largely because explicit tests of the two potential mechanisms underlying MSR are still lacking: mental image of the self and kinesthetic visual matching. Here, we test the hypothesis that MSR ability in cleaner fish, Labroides dimidiatus, is associated with a mental image of the self, in particular the self-face, like in humans. Mirror-naive fish initially attacked photograph models of both themselves and unfamiliar strangers. In contrast, after all fish had passed the mirror mark test, fish did not attack their own (motionless) images, but still frequently attacked those of unfamiliar individuals. When fish were exposed to composite photographs, the self-face/unfamiliar body were not attacked, but photographs of unfamiliar face/self-body were attacked, demonstrating that cleaner fish with MSR capacity recognize their own facial characteristics in photographs. Additionally, when presented with self-photographs with a mark placed on the throat, unmarked mirror-experienced cleaner fish demonstrated throat-scraping behaviors. When combined, our results provide clear evidence that cleaner fish recognize themselves in photographs and that the likely mechanism for MSR is associated with a mental image of the self-face, not a kinesthetic visual-matching model. Humans are also capable of having a mental image of the self-face, which is considered an example of private self-awareness. We demonstrate that combining mirror test experiments with photographs has enormous potential to further our understanding of the evolution of cognitive processes and private self-awareness across nonhuman animals.
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
A fish passes the mirror self recognition test!
Our human abilities continue to found in more evolutionarily distant species. From Kohda et al.: