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Sorry, Dory: Some fish can recognize your face, and they'll spit in it

Researchers train archerfish to spit at a familiar human face when shown two similar photographs.


In "Finding Nemo," Dory's memory issues cause her to call her dear pal Nemo everything from Fabio to Elmo to Harpo. But according to a study published online June 7 in the journal "Scientific Reports," some fish can not only recognize faces, but be coached to show that recognition by...spitting at them?

The study was done by researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Queensland, and used small numbers of archerfish, a kind of fish known for spitting jets of water at prey.

Researchers showed archerfish a computer monitor displaying pairs of photos of faces, and rewarded them with food for spitting at one and not the other. When tested by being shown color images, the fish spat at the correct photo up to 81.5 percent of the time; for black-and-white images, their accuracy rose as high as 86.25 percent.

"This study not only demonstrates that archerfish have impressive pattern discrimination abilities," the researchers report, "but also provides evidence that a vertebrate lacking a neocortex and without an evolutionary prerogative to discriminate human faces can nonetheless do so to a high degree of accuracy."

In other words, archerfish have absolutely no need to tell us apart, but for some creepy reason, they still can. I, for one, welcome our new underwater overlords.