Are Tailwater Trout Stupid?

Tailwater Trout. This is one potential conclusion from the work of researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland in work published in the online scientific journal PLOS One. In a paper titled “Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish” authors Alexander Kotrschal and Barbara Taborsky stated when the cichlid fish Simochromis pleurospilus was subjected to variation in dietary availability early in life — either reduced or increased — the fish exhibited enhanced cognitive abilities over the course of individual otogeny, or, the development of an organism over it’s lifetime . While the study was conducted on a different species, the finding potentially implies that trout reared in highly variable Freestone biologies could have an enhanced rate of learning and survival skills as compared to fish living in relatively stable Tailwater environments. Environmental fluctuations early in life are known to enhance the behavioral flexibility of animals with regard to predator avoidance strategies [6],[7], feeding performance [7], and social behavior [6],[8]. Fish that had more variability in their food availability early in their lives showed increased ability to make correct associations with abstract stimuli and food. This typically results in large volumes of only a few types of food forms such as midges, smaller crustaceans like scuds and shrimp, and aquatic terrestrials like sowbugs and worms being available year ‘round. Most experienced tailwater anglers will agree that only subtle pattern changes and a completely drag free presentation are crucial in success with trout living below dams, but that in general, these fish are very tolerant of crowding and angler proximity, preferring to focus on easy feeding positioning in areas of prime insect drift, and rejecting food forms out of the norm. The study cited above would indicate that the differences in variability of the two environments are responsible for programming the fishes orientation towards learning and adaptability, and not just species. There could a takeaway for humans here.

Tailwater trout are stupid, and because of consistency in their environment are becoming more stupider every day.

This is one potential conclusion from the work of researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland in work published in the online scientific journal PLOS One. In a paper titled “Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish” authors Alexander Kotrschal and Barbara Taborsky stated when the cichlid fish Simochromis pleurospilus was subjected to variation in dietary availability early in life — either reduced or increased — the fish exhibited enhanced cognitive abilities over the course of individual otogeny, or, the development of an organism over it’s lifetime . While the study was conducted on a different species, the finding potentially implies that trout reared in highly variable Freestone biologies could have an enhanced rate of learning and survival skills as compared to fish living in relatively stable Tailwater environments.

As quoted from the text of the study, “On the level of the individual, environmental instability can be encountered by plastic trajectories of the development of cognitive abilities. Environmental fluctuations early in life are known to enhance the behavioral flexibility of animals with regard to predator avoidance strategies [6],[7], feeding performance [7], and social behavior [6],[8]. A possible explanation for these behavioral effects is that variable environments evoke repeated neural stimulations resulting in faster and better learning.”

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(Photo via Facebook/anglerscovey)

Fish were fed either on a stable high or a stable low food ration, or rations were switched from low to high or vice versa. They then trained the fish to associate a visual cue with food and…

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