Are Fish Cleverer Than We Think?

Originally thought to be a skill only possessed by humans, tool oriented behaviour shows how an animal understands the relationship between  the method and the results as well as the purpose of an object.
By tool use we mean when an animal uses any kind of object in order to achieve a goal such as acquiring food, defense or even recreation. Biologists have already observed this behaviour in land based animals such as monkeys or birds, but it is still very rarely observed in aquatic environments. However, as you most likely already know, the ocean is vast and many pelagic habitats haven’t been discovered and observed yet!

Here are some fascinating and remarkable tool use behaviours encountered underwater.


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Several species of wrasses have been observed opening clams by throwing and striking them against a chosen hard coral and break it apart. The fish starts this process by searching out clams across corals. Once the wrasse finds one, it grabs it and heads for a specific rock which it uses as an anvil by smashing the mollusk apart with sideward thrashes of the head. One of the few places where you can observe this behaviour is in Palau!


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Octopuses have been witnessed transporting coconut shells to use it as a protective shelter in areas there is nowhere to hide. Coconut octopus, as they are called, can be seen in Philippines and Indonesia.


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As we saw in this article, while foraging many dolphins have been observed covering their snouts with sponges to protect themselves. Dolphins appear to use the conch shells to scoop fish from the substrate then carry the shell to retrieve the fish near the surface. Dolphins tend to carry the same sponge for multiple surfacing but sometimes change sponges.

Have you observed any other tool use while scuba diving?


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