Skip to main content

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are deceived by visual illusions during obstacle negotiation

Cite this dataset

Santacà, Maria; Bisazza, Angelo; Agrillo, Christian (2022). Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are deceived by visual illusions during obstacle negotiation [Dataset]. Dryad.


Animals traveling in their natural environment repeatedly encounter obstacles that they can either detour or go through. Gap negotiation requires an accurate estimation of the opening’s size to avoid getting stuck or being injured. Research on visual illusions revealed that in some circumstances transformation rules used to generate a three-dimensional representation from bidimensional retinal images fail, leading to systematic errors in perception. In Ebbinghaus and Delboeuf illusions, the presence of task-irrelevant elements causes us to misjudge an object’s size. Susceptibility to these illusions was observed in other animals, although with large intraspecific differences. In this study, we investigated whether fish can accurately estimate gap size and whether during this process they may be deceived by illusory patterns. Guppies were extremely accurate in gap negotiation, discriminating holes with a 10% diameter difference. When presented with two identical holes surrounded by inducers to produce Ebbinghaus and Delboeuf patterns, guppies misperceived gap size in the predicted direction. So far, researchers have principally considered illusions as useful tools for exploring the cognitive processing underlying vision. Our findings highlight the possibility that they have important ecological implications, affecting the everyday interactions of an animal with its physical world besides its intra- and interspecific relationships.