Sensing the Dark Side: Fish Detect Fear in Their Peers, Study Reveals

© Jason ChingFish in Alaska's Knutson Bay.
Fish in Alaska's Knutson Bay.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.03.2023
The study reinforces the idea that understanding oxytocin as the love hormone is fundamentally wrong, suggesting that it is rather a switcher which helps us to decide what to feel at the moment.
Fish can understand whether other fish experience anxiety and fear, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science has claimed. What is more important, this ability is linked to oxytocin.
In their studies, researchers deleted oxytocin-related genes from zebrafish, rendering their brains unable to produce and absorb the hormone. The fish became absolutely antisocial, failing to detect their peers' behavior and adjust to it. Most notably, they could not realize that other fish were scared to hell and take precautious measures.
Then, scientists gave these fish injections of oxytocin and this restored their social skills – they began to understand and even mirror other fishes' senses.

"They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us," said Ibukun Akinrinade – a neuroscientist who participated in the research.

The research also indicated that zebrafish pay more attention to stressed peers – the scientists believe that the sea dwellers tried to console them this way.
The paper's authors likewise allege that oxytocin is a really ancient staff that plays a central role in transmitting all emotions by most species. This means that a previous understanding of oxytocin as the hormone of love is wrong and it is rather responsible for all spectrum of emotions, determining whether it is time to fight, flee or procreate.
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