University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > Through a glass darkly - interpreting animal behaviour with the aid of machines

Through a glass darkly - interpreting animal behaviour with the aid of machines

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Arne Jungwirth.

The qualitative and potentially subjective nature of many ethological studies can lead to unresolvable debate over the interpretation of animal behaviour. This problem can be exacerbated when the taxonomic distance between the human observer and the focal species increases. In this talk I will discuss my recent work examining the potential for self-recognition in fish using the mirror test. In the study, we show that a fish, the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus, shows behaviour that may reasonably be interpreted as passing through all phases of the mark test: (i) social reactions towards the reflection, (ii) repeated idiosyncratic behaviours towards the mirror, and (iii) frequent observation of their reflection. When subsequently provided with a coloured tag in a modified mark test, fish attempt to remove the mark by scraping their body in the presence of a mirror but show no response towards transparent marks or to coloured marks in the absence of a mirror. This study has been met with significant resistance from parts of the behaviour community, who argue that interpretations of fish behaviour cannot be made in the same way as for mammals. I will discuss how our current approaches employing machine vision and artificial neural networks may provide a more objective and quantitative description of animal behaviours that open greater avenues to debate and discussion based on data rather than intuition.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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