, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 215-222
Date: 24 Jul 2007

Learning in cod (Gadus morhua): long trace interval retention

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Basic knowledge about learning capacities and awareness in fish is lacking. In this study we investigated which temporal gaps Atlantic cod could tolerate between two associated events, using an appetitive trace-conditioning paradigm with blinking light as conditioned stimulus (CS) and dry fish food as unconditioned stimulus (US). CS–US presentations were either temporally overlapping (delay conditioning, CS duration 24 s, interstimulus interval 12 s) or separated by 20, 60, or 120 s (trace conditioning, CS duration 12 s) or 2 h (control, CS duration 12 s). The percentage of fish in the feeding area increased strongly during CS presentation in all delay, 20 s, and 60 s trace groups and in one out of two 120 s trace groups, but not in the control groups. In the 20 and 60 s trace procedures, the fish crowded together in the small feeding area during the trace interval, showing strong anticipatory behaviour. In all the conditioned groups, the fish responded to the CS within eight trials, demonstrating rapid learning. At 88 and 70 days after the end of the conditioning experiments, the delay and 20 s trace groups, respectively, were presented the CS six times at 2-h intervals without reward. All groups responded to the light signal, demonstrating memory retention after at least 3 months. This study demonstrates that Atlantic cod has an impressively good ability to associate two time-separated events and long time retention of learnt associations.