Are Fishes Cleverer Than We Think?

Tool-oriented behaviour shows how an animal understands the relationship between  the method and the results as well as the purpose of an object. Until not so long ago, we thought it was a human trait, but fishes are proving to us that they are a lot more cleverer than we think.

By tool use. we mean when an animal uses any kind of object in order to achieve a goal. That goal could be as 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 rare to observe it in aquatic environments. Scientists really only started looking into this in 2011 after footage was published online. Have a look at this photo here.

However, as you most likely already know, the ocean is vast and many pelagic habitats haven’t been discovered yet!

Here are some fascinating and remarkable tool use behaviours encountered underwater. This proves that fishes are cleverer than we think.


Several species of wrasses have been observed opening clams. They throw and strike 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. It uses the rock 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!


Octopuses have been witnessed transporting coconut shells. They use it as a protective shelter in areas there is nowhere to hide. Very often, they only find discarded coconut shell and this earnt them the nickname of ‘Coconut octopus’. They are a frequent sight in Philippines and Indonesia.


As you saw in this article, many dolphins use sponges to cover their snouts as protection. The dolphins appear to use the conch shells to scoop fishes from the substrates. They then carry the shell to retrieve the fishes 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? Are fishes cleverer than we think?



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