Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 125–143 | Cite as

The role of learning in fish behaviour

  • James D. Kieffer
  • Patrick W. Colgan


The behavioural patterns of fish are the result of innate (‘built-in’) patterns of maturation (developmental changes) and of learning processes (imprinting and trial-and-error learning). Innate behavioural patterns are considered to be ‘hard-wired’ and inflexible. However, through learning, fish can adapt to environmental change. For instance, the homing behaviour of fish may be partly the result of the development of specific parts of the brain and partly because of changes in behaviour with experience. Similarly, one can assume that the feeding mode of fish involving snap-responses is innate, but learning enables fish to modify their foraging behaviour in response to a fluctuating environment. By reviewing these and other examples, such as the role of recognition learning and socially transmitted behaviour, one can illustrate the importance of learning in the everyday life of fishes. Although learning plays a large role in the behaviour of fishes, the learning capacity of fishes may also be useful to fisheries research and hatchery operations.


Environmental Change Everyday Life Behavioural Pattern Developmental Change Large Role 
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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Kieffer
    • 1
  • Patrick W. Colgan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyQueen's UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Museum of NatureStation DOttawaCanada

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