Three fish, four fish…then no more fish

CNN’s blog arena recently published this little report on the counting abilities of the fishies.  Evidently, just like monkeys and one-year old children, mosquitofish have now been proven to have the ability to count to four.  Personally I find this vaguely disturbing.  I know that we all go through a sort of ‘fish stage’ in utero, but I didn’t realize that fish could have almost the same mental ability as monkeys, even in limited areas.  Considering the studies that have been done on fish and pain (which as far as I know, have not been conclusive either way yet), I would have expected the counting abilities of fish to be limited.  True, those with more developed brain areas related to optics probably have some way of categorizing different types of things, but I still would not have expected counting.

While it does seem to make sense that fish would have development equal to that of a very young child, at the same time, it makes me wonder a little more at our own development.  Who can truly remember the experience of being one year old, or even younger?  Despite the family anecdote of my younger sister describing her memory of the womb as ‘crowded’, I doubt the authenticity of any of these young memory claims.  Could we gain a glimpse of our own most basic selves through studying the experience of fish?  Could fish be made to expand their skills in to counting up to five, six, or beyond?  What are the implications of three versus many, and how do they relate in our minds to language, cognizance, or even civilization?