Fish Look After Their Mates

Posted: Sep 26 2015, 1:31am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 26 2015, 6:39pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Fish Look after their Mates
Rabbitfish display levels of cooperation not previously believed possible in fishes. Photo Credit: Jordan Casey

Yet another research report uncovers the intelligence of small fish. The Rabbitfish is able to look after his buddy.

Last month we carried a scientific report that revealed that some fish can think logically. Today, a new study revealed unknown social skills of small coral reef fish.

Research done at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has found that pairs of rabbitfishes will cooperate and support each other while feeding.

This kind of behavior was thought to be only possible for highly social birds and mammals. 

"We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner," says Dr Simon Brandl from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

"In other words, one partner stays 'on guard' while the other feeds - these fishes literally watch each others' back," Dr Brandl says.

"This behavior is so far unique among fishes and appears to be based on reciprocal cooperation between pair members."

Reciprocal cooperation requires an investment in a partner, which is later reciprocated, and is assumed to require complex cognitive and social skills. Skills that fishes have been deemed not to have.

Yet, Dr Brandl says their research shows clear coordination and presents intriguing evidence for reciprocal cooperation between the rabbitfish pairs.

"There has been a long standing debate about whether reciprocal cooperation can exist in animals that lack the highly developed cognitive and social skills found in humans and a few species of birds and primates." Dr Brandl says.

"By showing that fishes, which are commonly considered to be cold, unsocial, and unintelligent, are capable of negotiating reciprocal cooperative systems, we provide evidence that cooperation may not be as exclusive as previously assumed."

Co-author, Prof. Bellwood, also from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, says that our perception of fishes as cold scaly automans is slowly changing.

"Our findings should further ignite efforts to understand fishes as highly developed organisms with complex social behaviors. This may also require a shift in how we study and ethically treat fishes," he says.

The more we know about animals, the more it is difficult to ignore what we do to them. Fish cannot scream and cannot be cuddled. This makes it easy to kill them in huge quantities. Humankind is actually close to kill all fish. Marine Life has been wiped out by 50% since the 70s according to the WWF. There could be soon no fish left to study.

The results of this study have been published in the paper titled: "Coordinated vigilance provides evidence for direct reciprocity in coral reef fishes," by Simon J. Brandl and David R. Bellwood on journal Nature Scientific Reports.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
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