Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Key argues that fish do not experience pain because they lack the necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) brain structures and associated functional circuitry to engender such conscious percepts. I propose that fish pain may be dependent on neuroanatomical regions and pathways that are structurally and/or functionally analogous — but not strictly homologous — to well-characterized mammalian substrates of pain. An example is the convergent appearance of the complex, single-compartment eye across invertebrate and vertebrate phylogeny. Structural-functional convergence is ubiquitous in evolution. Comparative inferences and correlative lines of evidence play an important role in building evolutionary arguments. The dismissal of the perception of pain in fish may be premature at best.

Author Biography

David Edelman dedelman@sandiego.edu is a neuroscientist and adjunct faculty member at University of San Diego and University of California, San Diego. His research is on mechanisms of gene regulation, the relationship between mitochondrial transport and brain activity, and visual perception in the octopus, with special interest in conscious states in animals quite distant phylogenetically from mammals or even vertebrates. http://loop.frontiersin.org/people/48713/bio