[youtube height=”500″ width=”800″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giNH6oHPGmw[/youtube]
Cooperative hunting is well known among terrestrial animals (lions), birds (aplomado falcons), marine mammals (bottlenose dolphins) and humans. However, cooperative hunting amongst different species is extremely rare as well as the ability of communication, apart from humans with other species.
A team of researchers led by Swiss University of Neuchatel biologist Redouan Bshary has discovered that groupers and moray eels hunt together! Groupers hunt during the day in open water so in order to avoid them; reef fish hide in the corals. Whilst, moray eels hunt by cornering their prey inside reef holes during the night so the best way for reef fish to avoid them is to swim in the blue. Consequently, both hunting strategies are complementary and each species have understood it!
When a hungry grouper sees his prey escape into a reef’s crevice, it swims over the nearest resting moray eel and starts to call it by shaking its head and waving its dorsal fin. Most of the time, the eel responds to the visual stimulus by leaving its crevice and follows the grouper to where the prey is hidden. Once in front of it, the grouper repeats the same dance. The eel goes inside and tries to catch the fish for himself whilst the grouper stays on top of the reef hoping the eel only manages to scare it out from the reef!
Even though one of the 2 species might not catch the prey, both are still increasing their individual hunting success by working together. The grouper by increasing its probabilities to get the fish out of the reef, and the moray eel by hunting during the day. Moreover, both of them swallow the whole fish and prevent, thus, a fight over the carcass.
The evolution of this cooperation is completely prevented due to this non-altruist competition.
The research continues and finds out that groupers actually remember the effective and helpful moray eel and return to it for the next hunt.
Authors conclude that this behavior is the result of associative learning; each one knows that hunting in the vicinity of the other improves its own success. However, this doesn’t mean a more complex cognitive of the fish.
These researches were done in the Red Sea. Have ever witnessed it in the Red Sea or somewhere else? For further information on diving the Red Sea by live aboard, please contact us!
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Source: Bshary et al. 2006, “Interspecific Communicative and Coordinated Hunting between Groupers and Giant Moray Eels in the Red Sea” publish in PLoS Biology.