Symposium - "Teleost fish as models in comparative cognition"

Keynote speakers: Rui F. Oliveira (Portugal) & Theresa Burt de Perera (UK)

A powerful approach for the study of comparative cognition would combine phylogenetic research on the evolution of cognitive abilities, aiming to uncover how these may lead to new solutions to adaptive problems, with neuroethological research on a phylogenetically close model organism, for which the “tool box” for mapping cognitive function into neural networks is available.

Teleost fish fulfill both requirements and therefore offer an excellent opportunity to implement such a research program. First, they offer a unique potential for phylogenetic comparisons on cognitive abilities as they occupy a key position in the vertebrate phylogenetic tree, they had an independent radiation (parallel to that of tetrapods) and are the most diverse vertebrate taxa, allowing for comparisons between closely related species. Second, a number of model organisms have been developed among teleost fish (e.g. zebrafish) for which neurobiological and genetic tools are becoming increasingly available, allowing the study of brain function in relation to cognition and behaviour.

Despite these opportunities, the field of comparative cognition has been dominated by an anthropocentric perspective, and research has been focused on few clades (e.g. primates, corvids, dogs). In this symposium we will discuss how fish can be used as models to study comparative cognition from an ecological perspective.

The keynote talks will address: (1) comparative research on spatial representation in fish (TBP), and (2) the role of zebrafish as a model for the study of the neural mechanisms underlying social cognition (RFO).


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The European Conference of Behavioural Biology | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien