Sober Fish Willingly Play Follow-the-Leader With Drunk Fish

Do not try these experiments at home

Photo: Marrabbio2

It's easy to get fish drunk. Unlike humans or land animals, you don't have to convince them to partake in the booze. You simply pour it into their tank and they suck it up. 

One lab at New York University regularly gets zebra fish drunk, with the ultimate goal of studying how alcohol affects organisms, Discover writes. In their latest experiment, the researchers got several fish drunk by placing them in tanks with varying concentrations of booze, from 0.25 percent to a full one percent ethanol. In the latter, most extreme case, Discover points out, the fish emerged with a blood alcohol level of around 0.1 percent, or well above the 0.08 percent legal cut off for humans.

Next, the researchers tossed the drunks into a clean tank with four sober individuals. For five minutes, the researchers watched the fish and recorded their movements, Discover describes. The drunk fish, they found, zipped around the tank at a faster rate than the sober ones. Instead of ignore their sloppy comrade, however, the sober fish followed it, picking up their own pace to keep up. (The drunkest fish of the bunch, however, wound up quickly losing energy and interest in the game, the team points out.)

The researchers really don't know why this happened, Discover writes, but it could be that the sober animals perceived their hyper tank mate as a leader among fish. 

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