The common belief is that fish are dumb. Dr. Csilla Ari was curious how to measure the cognitive abilities of fish, namely manta rays.
There is a test that is universally accepted to measure whether an animal has self-awareness, self recognition. The mirror test was developed by Gallup, in 1970 and only a few species have passed it so far, e.g. some apes, the african elephant, the magpie, and the bottlenose dolphin. The common characteristics of these species are the relatively large, well developed brain and highly social behavior.
For example bottlenose dolphins made unusual turns in front of a mirror and blew bubbles indicating self inspection. Dr. Csilla Ari thought if manta rays have the largest brain of all fish, then they probably have the best chance to pass the mirror test if any fish can at all. So it might sound strange at first, but she actually exposed captive manta rays to a mirror and experienced something unexpected. The manta rays not only spent much more time in the area front of the mirror, but they exposed their belly to the mirror repetitively and even created bubbles somehow, similar to what was observed with dolphins.
These exciting experiments will be continued in 2015. Stay tuned!