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The way animals move through space is likely to affect the way they learn and remember spatial information. For example, a pelagic fish, Astyanax fasciatus, moves freely in vertical and horizontal space and encodes information from both dimensions with similar accuracy. Benthic fish can also move with six degrees of freedom, but spend much of their time travelling over the substrate; hence they might be expected to prioritise the horizontal dimension. To understand how benthic fish encode and deploy three-dimensional spatial information we used a fully rotational Y-maze to test whether Corydoras aeneus (i) encode space as an integrated three-dimensional unit or as separate elements, by testing whether they can decompose a three-dimensional trajectory into its vertical and horizontal components, and (ii) whether they prioritise vertical or horizontal information when the two conflict. In contradiction to the expectation generated by our hypothesis, our results suggest that C. aeneus are better at extracting vertical information than horizontal information from a three-dimensional trajectory, suggesting that the vertical axis is learned and remembered robustly. Our results also showed that C. aeneus prioritise vertical information when it conflicts with horizontal information. From these results, we infer that benthic fish attend preferentially to a cue unique to the vertical axis, and we suggest that this cue is hydrostatic pressure.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Processes

Publication Date



109 Pt B


151 - 156


Benthic, Cognition, Navigation, Orientation, Spatial, Three-dimensional, Animals, Catfishes, Cognition, Space Perception, Spatial Navigation