New tags, used to identify individual animals, could potentially reduce the number of animals needed in research.

Using tags to reduce the number of animals needed for research

Researchers at Exeter have been piloting a new tagging system that will make it easier to keep track of individual fish, potentially reducing the number of animals needed in research and improving the welfare of those being used.

These new tags, being used in research into the behaviour of Green Swordtails, are even smaller than the coloured marks previously used to identify fish. Crucially they allow researchers to have as many unique identities as needed in a tank. This makes it much easier to keep track of every individual while also keeping fish in the larger shoals they prefer.

This research into fish behaviour is helping us understand how genes and environmental effects act, and interact, to cause the evolution of personality traits like boldness and aggressiveness.

Dr Alastair Wilson, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology explained: “To study personality, we need to be able to observe how each individual animal behaves, not just on one day but over extended periods of time from weeks to months. This means we need to we need to know the individual identity of all our fish at all times.”