First Video Captures Fish Using Tools to Get Food

By ABC News

Sep 29, 2011 5:05pm

The first video of a fish using tools to extract food has been released by UC Santa Cruz professor Giacomo Bernardi.

The footage shows a species of wrasse fish using a rock as an anvil to crush the shell of a clam to devour the concealed contents.

Initially, using tools was a trait Bernardi said “defined us [humans] compared to the animal world.”  However, since then, video of chimps and birds using tools to their advantage have been recorded, and now fish.

Bernardi first started tracking this species 15 years ago when he witnessed the wrasse using tools quite frequently off the coast of Florida. Finally, while on a dive two years ago in Palau, he filmed the underwater video. Studies and data have been taken on the wrasse using tools, but his video allows viewers to see the entire sequence in real time.

“People have taken pictures of fish doing things, but this is the first movie that shows the succession of it,” Bernardi said.

The wrasse displays very “forward thinking” as it sifts through the sand for its prey and swiftly swims to a large rock.

“It swims really far to find the most appropriate place to crush it into small bits to be able to eat it,” Bernardi said.

The orange-dotted tuskfish, or the specific type of wrasse, is relatively old, so Bernardi believes it is possible the entire family of wrasse uses tools.

“They are carnivorous so their brain is very different from other fishes,” Bernardi said.

“Their brain has developed a sense of smell and they are very inquisitive and keen observers. That is what sets them apart. They are very smart.” he said.

According to the professor, this species uses tools frequently, but catching the action on video was quite lucky.

“It happens quite a lot, but you have to be in the right place at the right time.”

– by Sarah Hoberman

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