Animal Sentience

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


If fish cannot feel pain, why do stingrays have purely defensive tail spines that deliver venom? Stingrays’ ancestral predators are fish. And why do many fishes possess defensive fin spines, some also with venom that produces pain in humans? These things did not evolve just in case sentient humans would evolve millions of years later and then invent scuba. If fish react purely unconsciously to “noxious” stimuli, why aren’t sharp jabbing spines enough? Why also stinging venom?

Author Biography

Carl Safina csafina@safinacenter.org is the inaugural endowed professor for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University, where he co-chairs the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and is founding president of the not-for-profit Safina Center. Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel is Carl’s seventh book. http://safinacenter.org/about-carl-safina/