Scientists discover fish using tools may be wide spread

Dec 01, 2011

Dr. Culum Brown, who recently made headlines publishing the first photographic evidence of a tusk fish using tools to smash open shells says, “There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that fish have been largely underestimated in terms of their abilities.”

Tool use is inherently difficult underwater especially for animals that lack hands but what Dr. Brown has observed is that fish have found many ingenious solutions to allow them to over come this.

Many species of wrasse, for example, use anvils to smash open shell fish and other difficult to handle prey. Until recently, there were few examples of this behavior, but there are a growing number of observations in the literature.

“We now have fantastic proof of these intelligent fish at work to access prey that they would otherwise miss out on," said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown also argues that you can make a case for the way some fish manipulate their watery environment to achieve a desired goal as meeting the common definition of use.

“Archerfish squirt water from their mouths to dislodge terrestrial prey items above the surface and trigger fish blow water streams to turn sea urchins over, to access their more vulnerable side. Both documented examples have all the hallmarks of tool use and are probably cognitively demanding,” says Brown. 

For a long time it was thought to be unique to humans, but studies soon showed that primates 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 Caledonian crows), which suggests that tool use in animals may be more common that once thought. Adding to this list of animals gives researchers new insight into the evolution of tool use among vertebrate.

"We really need to spend more time looking underwater to find out just how common tool use is in marine fishes," says Dr. Brown, "It is likely that further examples will continue to be unveiled.”

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

Provided by Macquarie University

4.7 /5 (11 votes)

Related Stories

First ever photo of fish using tools

Jul 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new paper soon to be published in Coral Reefs reveals the first ever photographs of a fish, in this case the blackspot tuskfish, using tools to acquire their food.

Video shows tool use by a fish

Sep 28, 2011

The first video of tool use by a fish has been published in the journal Coral Reefs by Giacomo Bernardi, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

One bite can destroy a reputation, even if you are a fish

Jul 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Misbehaving in front of others can ruin your reputation even if you are a fish, according to an international study that has shown for the first time an audience can influence levels of cooperation ...

Recommended for you

Secret wing colours attract female fruit flies

16 hours ago

Bright colours appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have now demonstrated that females choose a mate ...

Pigeons and people play the odds when rewards are higher

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —If you were weighing the risks, would you choose to receive a guaranteed $100, or take a 50/50 chance of winning either $200 or nothing? Researchers at the University of Alberta have shown that ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ThanderMAX
5 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2011
Future Fish-Overlord
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
I was always blown away by cleaner shrimp relationships.

http://en.wikiped...r_shrimp

http://en.wikiped..._station

That'd be like us letting squirrels pick our teeth clean for us..

ROBTHEGOB
3 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2011
I became suspicious when I found a sawfish in my garage using my band saw to cut up a tuna.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2011
The more animals are studied the more science recognizes that they have to varying degrees the same motivations, emotions, feelings, and base cognitive powers as people. The primary difference is humans have developed a complex language that permits the precise communication and recording of ideas, and a physical form that can precisely manipulate their environment, which itself has a powerful secondary effect on cognitive ability.

All higher order animals should be treated with the same respect as people for this reason.