PARIS, June 22 — Nowadays, many parents opt for a positive, caring approach with their children.

But in the animal kingdom, this is far less widespread. In fact, a Japanese study claims that some fish use physical punishment to encourage their offspring to behave better.

Researchers from Osaka Metropolitan University made the discovery after studying the behaviour of Neolamprologus savoryi, a type of fish endemic to Africa’s Lake Tanganyika.

The researchers noticed that the dominant males of this species do not hesitate to physically attack some of their fellow fish.

Their aim? To force them to participate more actively in the life of the group, particularly when it comes to defending territory and protecting egg-laying sites.

The academics found that Neolamprologus savoryi adopt this behaviour with any fish in their shoal that they deem to be idle, including their own offspring.

While this strategy may seem morally reprehensible from a human perspective, it proves highly effective for the fish. Victims of physical punishment tend to change their attitude and become more cooperative within the group.

“Our study demonstrated that nonhuman animals also use punishment to elicit cooperative behaviours in group members,” explains Dr Satoshi Awata, a professor at Osaka Metropolitan University and lead author of the study, published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

The fact that Neolamprologus savoryi use physical punishment as a learning tool suggests that fish are far more intelligent than commonly thought. These aquatic animals are gifted with great social intelligence.

Studies have shown that fish are capable of individually recognising their fellow creatures and developing special affinities with some of them, particularly the most cooperative.

Their social behaviour is just as sophisticated as that of certain birds and land mammals. However, the psychological mechanisms underlying these behaviours are still poorly understood and would need to be the subject of future research. — ETX Studio