Do fish have feelings? We typically don’t think of them as warm, fuzzy types, but Yoriko, an Asian sheepshead wrasse who lives off the coast of Japan, might just prove us wrong. For 25 years, Yoriko has greeted local diver Hiroyuki Arakawa when he comes to tend a Shinto shrine beneath the waves.
The Hasama Underwater Park near Tateyama, Japan includes a Shinto shrine only accessible via a tank of air, goggles, and scuba gear. Arakawa, who runs a local diving shop, manages the shrine and he consistently reports on his Facebook page that Yoriko comes to see him and plays with him as he tends the shrine. Arakawa greets Yoriko with a kiss when they meet. The Dodo reports that Yoriko and Arakawa have been friends for 25 years now.
Arakawa also brings groups of divers beneath the waves to see the shrine, and his friendly fish companion will sometimes show up to greet them as well.
If Yoriko’s recurring visits aren’t enough, late last year researchers detected signals that could indicate some level of sentience in fish. They found that when zebrafish were exposed to stressors, they exhibited a rise in body temperature. Called ‘emotional fever,’ the rise could indicate that the zebrafish have feelings and some level of consciousness. Before the study, scientists thought only mammals, birds, and reptiles displayed emotional fever, yet the researchers behind the study definitively concluded that the zebrafish displayed emotional fever as well. Whether the reaction is truly linked to consciousness still remains to be proven.
For now, one particular fish near Japan will likely continue to visit often with his human friend, proving that the bond between human animals and finned-creature can be as tight as any.