Color preferences affect learning in zebrafish, Danio rerio

Tamal Roy, Piyumika S. Suriyampola, Jennifer Flores, Melissa López, Collin Hickey, Anuradha Bhat, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Animals may exhibit preference for colors that match their environment or the resources in the environment. These preferences may impact ability to learn associations with these colors and revert the associations when the reward contingency is modified. We used zebrafish Danio rerio from four populations to test if color preferences impact associative and reversal learning ability. First, we tested if preference for blue or green impact associative ability. We subjected individual fish through eight trials to associate a social stimulus with blue or green. Next, we tested if preference for red or green impact associative reversal learning ability. We trained fish in groups of three to associate a social stimulus with red or green over three trials, and reversed the reward contingency during the following session. Results showed that zebrafish preferred green over blue and domesticated fish chose green more than blue when there was a reward attached. Zebrafish also preferred red over green. Fish from one wild population learned with both colors and reversed learning only from green to red and not vice-versa. Fish from another population showed an overwhelming preference for red irrespective of what was rewarded. Domesticated fish did not show reversal learning ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14531
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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