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Biologisches Kolloquium


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Prof. Dr. Schluessel


Milena May, Leonie Adler, Hannah Otto, Vera Schluessel, Roberta Calvo, Wessel van der Vos, Carmen Salas, Blanca Quintero Vera und Carina Böhme, Slawa Braun und Sabine Büttner fehlen leider :(

Logo: Katharina Plischke


Cognition in Fish

With almost 33 000 described species in 515 families (Nelson 2006), fish represent the largest extant vertebrate group, totaling more species than all other vertebrate groups (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) combined. While new species are still discovered almost daily (Reid et al. 2013), knowledge about many species or even entire families is scarce or even lacking. Specifically the cognitive abilities of fish have only 'more recently' become a topic of research interest, with an upsurge in behavioral cognition studies over the last 20 years. However, considering fish diversity and the immense ecological and physiological breadth of fish, fish as a group are still severely understudied. 


Sharks, rays and chimaeras comprise the class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fishes), which represents the oldest extant jawed vertebrates. Today, there are more than 1200 known species, which inhabit almost every aquatic environment and hold a key phylogenetic position to understanding brain evolution in jawed vertebrates. While this group was formerly known as ‘primitive fish with primitive brains’, research over the last few decades has provided increasing amount of evidence that sharks and rays show sophisticated behavior, have a complex biology and are equipped with sensory systems that are perfectly adapted to life underwater. Before my lab started looking at cognitive abilities within this group, there was hardly any information regarding learning and memory capabilities of sharks and rays available. Our research over the last 10 years has shown that elasmobranchs have cognitive abilities that closely match those of many teleosts and other vertebrates.


While all of my previous research has focused on fish and primarily on elasmobranchs, my training has been quite broad. Prior to and during my PhD, I assessed various aspects of elasmobranch biology (movement patterns, spatial orientation, ecology, neurobiology, sensory biology, population genetics and life history) and incorporated a multitude of techniques and methodologies, both in the laboratory and out in the field. Since starting at my current position in Bonn in 2009, my research has concentrated on the cognitive functions and their neural substrates in fish. For this purpose, I employ behavioural experiments combined with lesion studies and immediate early gene analyses.




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