Fish are smart, exhibit W: Tuskfish uses a tool!  »

A pro diver caught this series of pictures documenting a blackspot tuskfish in the Keppel region of the southern Great Barrier Reef carrying a cockle over to a rock where she (he? it? I pick she) was seen repeatedly bashing the shellfish to get at the fleshy bits inside.” Nice description, National Geographic! Jeez louise. Come on Ms. Tuskfish, go vegan already!

People have witnessed other fish using similar tools to eat but this is the first time a wild fish has been caught on camera using a tool. The pictures were published in an article in Coral Reefs, a journal of which I’ve never heard, try as I might to keep up with the latest coral reef news. The scientists are using Jane Goodall’s definition of tool use: “the use of an external object as a functional extension of mouth or hand in the attainment of an immediate goal.” Sounds good to me! The article says this fish is extra smart too because it is more practical to bash the shell against the rock than to try to drop a rock onto the shell—you can see how that would be problematic in the ocean. Ms. Tuskfish is like, “adoy.”

Remember when they thought only humans used tools? Ha, silly people. Always trying to be special. In fact, lots of animals use tools. Otters use rocks to bust open shells as well; I think this is my favorite example of tool use in an animal because otters have been known to save a stone if it’s an especially good one. They hold them on their bellies while they float on their backs! Oh otters, I love you so much, you and your favorite rocks. You’re cool too, Ms. Tuskfish!

Moral of the story: Fish are smart! They can think! So if you’re eating them because you think they are dumb—which is an irrational reason but people do it—you can’t use that excuse anymore.

[photo by S. Gardner via National Geographic/Coral Reefs]


Fish are math geniuses! Basically!  »

New research shows that fish can discriminate between different numbers of objects! I didn’t read the study because Save by the Bell is on but I totally read the abstract! And I read this great summary article from One Kind. The fish involved were mosquitofish—they eat mosquito larvae, god bless them. They are super social and if they find themselves alone, they try to find their friends, asap. So the scientists put their pals behind one door with a certain number of shapes on it and then they had another door with nothing behind it that had a different number of shapes on it. Of course at first, the fish were guessing, but soon they were picking the door with their friends on the other side!

The conclusion from the abstract:

Fish are able to use pure numerical information when discriminating between quantities larger than four units. As observed in human and non-human primates, the numerical system of fish appears to have virtually no upper limit while the numerical ratio has a clear effect on performance. These similarities further reinforce the view of a common origin of non-verbal numerical systems in all vertebrates.

When they say they observed similarities between fish and humans when it comes to these numbers, they don’t mean real humans, they mean college students. They gave them a test similar to the one they gave the fish and while they performed better across the board, they were more accurate when the ratio between numbers was larger—same with the fish. And fish could distinguish between numbers in the hundreds! Go fish!

Let’s turn this into an opinion piece, OK? Like, what are your opinions. Because, see, I’m torn; I love learning about animals but I don’t like when they are in experiments. This kind of experiment is a far cry from a Draize test (just wiki, don’t be scared), or even poisoning fish with bee venom (self-reference! not scary!) to prove they feel pain. But we know, regardless of the experiment, the life of a lab animal is abysmal (scary video but educational). So I guess it doesn’t matter what we learn or how noninvasive an experiment is, we should leave the animals alone. People just can’t be trusted to take care of animals when taking care of animals is not their primary goal! I.e., if it’s in the name of science, we can’t depend on people to look out for the animals. But I love learning about animals!

Wait, I know what to do: OBSERVATIONAL research! Where they just check out the wild animals and try to stay out of their way. Yeah?

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