Hey, you look familiar


Julidochromis transcriptus “Gombi”. Photo from http://www.plantedtank.net/.

Did you know that some species of fish, just like many other animals, can identify conspecifics by sight? While it may often be difficult for you to tell the difference between some of your fish, Julidochromis transcriptus is one cichlid species with the ability to sort through facial patterns to identify those of its own kind.

Perhaps even more interesting is the depth of their recall. From how far back in time can they remember a familiar face? What are the contexts by which they remember or is context even a variable? These are interesting questions, but not the objective of the research by the team of scientists in Japan who recently published a paper in the journal Animal Behavior titled “Face recognition in the Tanganyikan cichlid Julidochromis transcriptus.

If you’ve never kept this species, you should consider doing so. It’s a wonderful little Tanganyikan that is relatively common in the hobby, easy to breed, and even more fun to observe. Also known as the Masked Julie, transcriptus, like other Julies, is a torpedo-shaped cichlid that prefers lots of rocks and caves. They have an interesting knack for positioning themselves at odd angles near rocks and cave openings when they’re not feeding, spawning, or protecting territory. They may hang inverted under a rock or even position themselves vertically.

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