A comparison of spatial learning and memory capabilities in intertidal gobies

Gemma E. White, Culum Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


For the majority of animals, the ability to orient in familiar locations is a fundamental part of life, and spatial memory allows individuals to remember key locations such as food patches, shelter, mating sites or areas regularly occupied by predators. This study determined if gobies collected from rocky platforms and sandy beaches differ in their ability to learn and memorise the locations of tide pools in a simulated rocky intertidal zone. Intertidal rock pool gobies show acute homing abilities and, therefore, should be expected to display superior learning and memory capabilities. In contrast, it is unlikely that natural selection would favour similar learning skills in sandy shore fishes because they simply shift back and forth with the tides. The learning abilities of gobies were tested using small replica rock platforms, containing four tide pools that retained varying depths of water at simulated low tide. Gobies were categorised as having learnt the task if they were able to consistently locate the tide pool that retained the most water at simulated low tide as the pool with the most favourable conditions. Rock pool species were able to locate the deepest pool to wait out low tide for ~95 % of the trials, while species from sandy shores were found in the deepest pool ~10 % of trials. Despite repeated stranding, sandy shore fish continued to follow the tide out. We propose that rock pool species memorised the location of rock pools during simulated high tide enabling them to relocate the best refuge for low tide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1393-1401
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


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