What is it about?

Self-awareness is an exceedingly rare characteristic in animals, long thought to be reserved for humans and great apes. The current study, however, revealed that a small cleaner fish that experienced a mirror can recognize themselves not only in mirrors but also in photos.

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Why is it important?

The fish identify themselves via self-face recognition in a similar way by humans who have a mental image of their own face, suggesting they also have the mental image of their own face. The mental process in self-recognition is the first documentation in animals.


These findings in this fish suggest that the self-awareness or “inner something (mind)” might be a trait far more widespread among vertebrates than previously believed.

Masanori Kohda
Osaka Metropolitan University

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This page is a summary of: Cleaner fish recognize self in a mirror via self-face recognition like humans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2208420120.
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