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Mirror, mirror on the wall, you're the scariest fish of all

Male cichlids may find their own reflections more upsetting than a real challenger

Even though a male cichlid is one tough fish, he may be scared of his own reflection. A new study shows that squaring off to fight a mirror opponent can be worse than fighting a real foe.

Male cichlid fish readily attack other males as well as mirror images of themselves, posturing and lunging with the same aggression, says Julie K. Desjardins of Stanford University. Yet the reflection-fighting males show heightened activity in a part of the brain associated with fear and other negative reactions in vertebrates, she and Stanford colleague Russell Fernald have found.

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