Forgetful fish: “I hate global warming”

Minh-Phuong Thi Duong
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

September 2, 2023

In a recent study led by Ana Carolina Luchiari and colleagues from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, it has been suggested that elevated water temperatures can lead to cognitive challenges in reef fish, affecting their capacity to remember and learn [1].

More specifically, the study’s findings unveiled that fish exposed to elevated temperatures experienced memory loss and diminished learning capabilities. Moreover, in conditions of moderately increased temperatures, there was a notable decrease in their ability to recall information and navigate a maze effectively. Under the most extreme conditions, fish were rendered entirely incapable of learning the maze. These discoveries shed light on the substantial consequences for the fish’s survival due to the impaired cognitive ability induced by rising ocean temperatures [1].

Illustration. Retrieved from

The mindsponge theory considers any life forms as information-processing systems, specifically information collection-cum-processors [2]. Applying this perspective, we might better understand the situation of fish experiencing a decline in memory and learning abilities due to rising temperatures. When the temperature rises, fish might encounter difficulty in processing and retaining information that does not align with their inherent cognitive framework. The disturbance caused by elevated temperatures could potentially induce cognitive stress, hindering fish from effectively integrating and utilizing new information. Since fish are consistently confronted with decisions essential for their survival – such as foraging, evading predators, and reproducing – the disruption in the information absorption and evaluation processes could notably hinder their capacity to make informed choices. This can result in less-than-optimal decisions that lower their overall adaptability and heighten their susceptibility to challenges such as predation, scarcity of food, and other environmental adversities [2].

The study’s findings emphasize how rising water temperatures can trigger a decline in fish memory and learning abilities. This cognitive impairment can lead to poor decision-making, which poses a significant threat to their survival. The disruption of fish’s cognitive functions under thermal stress highlights the urgent need to address climate change and its impacts on aquatic ecosystems to ensure the well-being and resilience of fish populations.


[1] Dzombak R. (2023). Damselfish in Distress: Warmer Seas Might Be Clouding Their Brains. Retrieved from:

[2] Nguyen MH, Jones TE. (2022). Building eco-surplus culture among urban residents as a novel strategy to improve finance for conservation in protected areas. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9, 426.