Just Like Stupid Humans, Fish Get Cocky When They're Drunk

By Robert Sorokanich on at

We humans love to use booze as liquid courage, but we're not the only ones who feel extra capable after a few swigs. New research shows that a tipsy zebra fish will swim faster than the sober fish in its school—like a big showoff. And just like humans, the sober fish will speed up rather than be bested by a drunkard. Humans: basically, we're just big fish.

The research, published this week in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, studied the social effect that sober peers would have on a single drunken zebrafish. Surprisingly, like the hero and villain in a comic book, the sober and drunk fish each had an influence on the others' behavior. As Professor Maurizio Porfiri, whose lab did the study, explains:

It is clear that the untreated fish were matching the swimming speed of the alcohol-exposed fish, and this correlation was especially strong at an intermediate level of alcohol exposure. At very high or low levels, the influence decreases.

In other words, tipsy fish get confident, while drunk-off-their-rocker fish get clumsy. And you thought being at the top of the food chain made you so special.

Finally, since you were wondering: The researchers got the fish drunk by pouring a precisely-metered dose of ethanol. in the water they're swimming in. In other words, these fish weren't just sipping; they were swimming in booze. [Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research via PopSci]

Image: Shutterstock / Sharapkov Alexey