Behavioural assessment of Murray cod decision-making and implications for conservation and welfare

Leia Rogers, Ellie Sales, Keller Kopf, Rafael Freire (Presenter)

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

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One key aspect of fish behaviour which has implications for welfare and conservation is understanding how fish make decisions when faced with complex, dangerous and uncertain environments. Behavioural research indicates that other animals experience affective states which serve to generate appropriate responses when presented with complex situations; in the human literature these affective states are referred to as “emotions”. The aim of this study was to determine if Murray cods’ responses to ambiguous/uncertain stimuli are influenced by affective state. Using a typical go/no-go judgement bias test, Murray cod were trained to enter a compartment at one corner of a large tank to receive a positive outcome (food), and to receive a negative outcome (chased by a net) after entering a compartment at another corner of the tank. Six Murray cod approached the positive outcome compartment significantly faster than the negative outcome compartment, indicating that they successfully learnt the discrimination task. Decision-making was then examined by opening three compartments in intermediate locations between the negative and positive outcome locations. In unrewarded probe tests, fish showed a typical generalisation curve indicating that they were combining knowledge of the positive and negative outcomes to decide whether to approach or avoid these intermediate compartments. Preliminary findings suggest that following 24 hours of housing with a larger Murray cod, which was predicted to induce a negative affective state, fish showed a slower response to the intermediate compartments compared to control-housed fish. The findings presented here confirm the remarkable learning ability of fish, and are consistent with the involvement of affective states in complex decision-making in Murray cod. The possibility that fish experience affective states has important implications for welfare and we discuss how knowledge of decision-making processes can help us predict how fish will respond and adapt to natural and anthropogenic environmental challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2019
EventAustralian Society for Fish Biology Conference - National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia
Duration: 14 Oct 201917 Oct 2019


ConferenceAustralian Society for Fish Biology Conference
Abbreviated titleCommunicate to illuminate and inspire
Internet address

Grant Number

  • CSU Green


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