Humans had long thought they were the only species capable of using tools. Then in the 1960s, Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using them. Later birds were seen as tool users. Now, thanks to UCSC university professor Giacomo Bernardi, fish can be seen utilizing this skill. His findings were published in the journal Coral Reefs.
The video below shows an orange-dotted tuskfish digging in the sand for a clam, then carrying the shell fish in his mouth for quite a distance looking for a rock large enough to toss the clam and break it. “The fish is planning the whole action. It’s really interesting,” states Bernardi. “The fish is doing a number of really complex things.”
“When Goodall reported that chimpanzees use tools it was a huge revolution in behavioral science,” Bernardi said in Mercury News.com. “People didn’t believe her right away, and then they assumed that probably only very advanced vertebrates use tools. Then they saw it in birds and other animals. A lot of people think fishes don’t do all that much, but if you spend enough time with fishes you’ll see that they do very sophisticated things.”
The ability of humans to observe primates in their natural habitat is a bit simpler than trying to observe sea creatures underwater. Thanks to professor Bernardi for documenting this amazing video. He filmed it on an island nation named Palau which is north of New Zealand. There have been reports of fish using tools for a number of years but this is the first time a video has documented tool-using behavior in a fish.
Tuskfish are part of the wrasse species of fish. “Wrasses are very inquisitive, very smart fishes,” says Bernardi. “Their brain is very particularly developed. It is carnivorous and has a keen sense of smell and vision.” Wrasses can be found in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world.
Photo of red tailed wrasse by USFWS Pacific via Flickr