fish, seasick fish, motion sickness fish

Fish Get Seasick Just Like Humans, New Study Shows

April 23, 2009 07:00 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
A German zoologist put an aquarium of fish into an aircraft that then went into a steep dive, after which some fish showed signs of seasickness.

Scientist Takes 49 Fish in Airplane, 8 Get Sick

Eight of the 49 fish put on the plane by Dr. Reinhold Hilbig began to swim around and exert signs of motion sickness during a nosedive taken by the plane to simulate zero gravity.

“They completely lost their sense of balance, behaving like humans who get seasick,” Dr. Hilbig told the Telegraph. “[They] looked as if they were about to vomit.”

During the phase of 0 gravity on the plane, the fish experiencing “seasickness” were spinning around, doing somersaults and generally acting confused. The problem for those 8 seasick fish may have to do with their ears.

The fish have an inner ear system that helps them stay upright, a sensory system not unlike the inner ear balance system of a human. Because of the similarities between the fish and humans, Dr. Hilbig is hoping to be able to draw some conclusions about how humans will react in similar situations.

After the experiment was carried out the scientists killed the fish that experienced motion sickness and found that many of them had asymmetric inner ears, which Dr. Hilbig told Peter Allen of BBC’s 5 Live’s Story of the Day was the reason that they felt seasick. Fish with symmetrical inner ears (like humans with symmetrical inner ears) are less susceptible to motion sickness.

When Allen commented that the experiment wasn’t much fun for the fish, Hilbig responded, “but only to ten percent of the fish no fun, the other 90 percent have fun as we people have who have perfect symmetric inner ears.” Hilbig also noted that he always flies with his fish, to be fair to the animals undergoing the experiment.

Related Topic: Cats, dogs, horses, other animals suffer from motion sickness

Many mammals other than humans seem to experience motion sickness, although the symptoms of motion sickness vary depending on the animal.

Horses, for example, have a tight muscle valve around the esophagus that makes it nearly impossible for them to vomit, and makes it hard to tell if they feel sick during a long trip on the road, according to New Scientist. Cattle and other livestock traveling on boats have been reported to show signs of seasickness.

Many pet owners can attest that some cats and dogs experience motion sickness. For these animals vomiting or defecation may take place during a car ride in which the animals feels sick. explains that some animals may seem “carsick” but they are actually just afraid or anxious about the car ride, for these animals they offer a few tips for getting them adjusted to time spent in the car (such as keeping them in the car while it isn’t moving, and then over time working your way up to movement by keeping them in the car with the motor running, going for short rides, and finally taking them on a trip). For animals that truly have an inner ear imbalance that makes them sick, medication may be necessary to complete trips.

Reference: What is motion sickness?

According to HowStuffWorks motion sickness is caused when your eyes, inner ears and muscles send contradictory sensory information to your brain about your body’s position in space.

Motion sickness is more common in women, and especially common during pregnancy. Travel in smaller cars or boats usually makes one more susceptible to motion sickness. It is thought that perhaps motion sickness is a defense mechanism by your body to prevent poisoning (as toxins in your body may cause disorientation and vomiting would expel those potential poisons).

The CDC has information about the types of drugs available to combat motion sickness, and also suggests a few methods for alleviating motion sickness without drugs.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines