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Posted: May 20, 2014

Turns out drunk fish get cocky and reckless, too


By Megan McLeod

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A new study finds fish under the sea tend to follow a fish under the influence.

Researchers at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering found zebrafish become faster and more active when drunk. And, when they're moved back into alcohol-free water, the study says sober fish actually treat drunk ones like leaders. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Azul)

According to the study's authors, the purpose was "to identify how a social group affects the individual response to [ethanol]" — a type of alcohol. A writer for Discover Magazine says while fish and humans aren't exactly similar, they are good subjects for studying the effects of alcohol.

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​The lead researcher told Discover the drunk fish's behavior, "is perceived as a boldness trait, thus imparting a high social status.” 

To get the zebrafish drunk, they were put in tanks with a certain alcohol concentration. The highest level translated to about a 0.1 percent blood alcohol content in the fish, which is higher than the legal driving limit for adults in the U.S. (Via YouTube / Aquatic World)

But even zebrafish know when someone's had too much. The drunkest of the drunk actually lost their high social status, possibly because they were slow to respond to their peers. (Via YouTube / Sachit Butail)

This isn't the researchers' first time boozing up fish. A previous study found plastered zebrafish are bad at noticing predators.

The researchers created a robotic Indian leaf fish, one of the zebrafish's predators, and placed it in the tank. The sober zebrafish fled while the drunks just kept swimming. (Via

​And before you get any ideas about playing "follow the drunk leader," keep in mind the effect probably doesn't work the same in humans. Obviously.

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