Fish are reckless when drunk, study finds

Alcohol also makes them more excitable

Christopher Hooton
Thursday 06 August 2015 14:39 BST
Zebrafish are thought to have behavioural similarities with humans
Zebrafish are thought to have behavioural similarities with humans

The effect of alcohol on humans is well-documented in academic research, anecdotal evidence and police reports, but what of the fish's inebriation I hear you cry?

Fortunately, given there is now a study for just about everything, we have some answers, after a research team from NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering's Dynamical Systems Laboratory conducted an experiment in which zebra fish were allowed to swim in a solution of ethanol.

The fish were put in tanks of varying dilution (0%, 0.25%, 0.5% and 1% ethanol), before being transferred into fresh water and monitored for how they interacted with sober fish.

The team, led by associate professor Maurizio Porfiri, found that, much like humans, the fish that were slightly buzzed had less inhibitions and showed little fear or hesitation.

They also appeared to act more boldly, leading the group of fish (the others turned when the drunk fish did) and swimming faster than usual.

Also congruous with humans, the fish had their limits.

Those exposed to 1% ethanol were a little too tanked (no pun intended) and their leadership skills diminished, lagging behind the sober fish and being a bit wobbly in their movements.

So why on earth where scientists getting fish drunk in the first place?

Zebrafish apparently have a lot of similarities to humans with regards to development, behaviour and genetics, with another study having found that when their eggs are exposed to alcohol, the fish grow up more anti-social - an insight which could help with the understanding of how mother's alcohol consumption effects unborn babies.

The NYU team could not say whether zebrafish experience hangovers, though they did note that "they get back to complete normalcy after a day or so".

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