Are fish much smarter than we think?

Jun 28, 2011

Fish are not renowned for their smarts, but new evidence suggests that they may even be able to use simple tools.

In a paper published today in the journal , researchers from Macquarie University and Central Queensland University report on a tusk fish smashing open shells on an anvil to access the meat inside.

Tool use has long been associated with the rise of humans and a sure sign of intelligence. For a long time it was thought to be unique to humans, but studies soon showed that also used tools for various tasks such as cracking open nuts. More recently it has been revealed that a variety of birds also manufacture and use tools (eg New Caladonian ), which suggests that tool use in animals may be more common that once thought.

"The pictures provide fantastic proof of these intelligent fish at work to access that they would otherwise miss out on," said Dr Culum Brown of Macquarie University.

"It is apparent that this particular individual does this on a regular basis judging by the broken shells scattered around the anvil."

Tool use is inherently difficult underwater especially for animals that lack hands but these fish have found an ingenious solution. The tusk fish holds the shell in its mouth and twists its head violently to land alternating blows on the shell until it cracks open.

"We really need to spend more time filming underwater to find out just how common tool use is in marine fishes," says Dr Brown, "It really is the final frontier down there."

Explore further: Rescued 'abandoned' penguin chicks survival similar to colony rates

Provided by Macquarie University

4.2 /5 (6 votes)

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d_robison
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
Now if only we could graft laser cannons onto their backs...we could rule the world!

Anyways cool article.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (10) Jun 28, 2011
For a long time it was common knowledge that Man was the only animal capable of using tools.

That view started to change 40 years ago.

It is now believed that Republicans are the only animals incapable of using tools constructively.

Given the evidence, I don't anticipate any change to this new world view.
epsi00
4.7 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2011
From finches with a knowledge of grammar ( see article on the same page ) to fish that can use tools. I repeat my comment. In 20 to 30 years we will acknowledge that animals are really no different from us. They use tools, they use language and grammar so apparently they can think with an organ that we call brain. It's sad that it took us many centuries to acknowledge the obvious.
Squirrel
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
The paper is only one page long and be read in its entirety for free (since Springer its publishers shows the first page of articles to those outside its paywall).

Tool use in the tuskfish Choerodon schoenleinii?
A. M. Jones, C. Brown and S. Gardner
http://www.spring...1t2t00m/
d_robison
1 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2011
From finches with a knowledge of grammar ( see article on the same page ) to fish that can use tools. I repeat my comment. In 20 to 30 years we will acknowledge that animals are really no different from us. They use tools, they use language and grammar so apparently they can think with an organ that we call brain. It's sad that it took us many centuries to acknowledge the obvious.


That depends on what you mean by "no different than us," the use of simple tools and the ability to communicate does not include necessarily include the ability to use logic, or innovate their way of living. The use of tools is one thing, the ability to improve your tools is unique.
epsi00
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
From finches with a knowledge of grammar ( see article on the same page ) to fish that can use tools. I repeat my comment. In 20 to 30 years we will acknowledge that animals are really no different from us. They use tools, they use language and grammar so apparently they can think with an organ that we call brain. It's sad that it took us many centuries to acknowledge the obvious.


That depends on what you mean by "no different than us," the use of simple tools and the ability to communicate does not include necessarily include the ability to use logic, or innovate their way of living. The use of tools is one thing, the ability to improve your tools is unique.


I think that animals in the wild tend to solve problems they are faced with as efficiently as we do. But they do not concern themselves with philosophical problems like we do. Their interest is limited to finding food, shelter and reproduction. You will never see a turtle building something to fly with.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2011
You will never find a turtle building a plane because they find no purpose in it.

It's all about providing them with a purpose. Once you provide animals of any sort with a purpose for using or interacting with something, you open the door.

I posit in the future, we will find that something as " simple " as a housefly can operate machinery, if, and only if, WE can provide a sensible purpose to it's interactions.

I said last week here that I think you could train a monkey to pick better stocks than a human, based on what I believe, and merely a week later, there's an article on NewScientist about monkeys outproforming the pro's picking stocks.

The shortcoming in understanding other life does not lay with the minds we strive to define, it lays with our own faulty definitions of ourselves. We shouldn't strive to teach them English, but instead make the efforts to learn their languages.

You don't go on vacation to Spain and tell them to speak English do you ?