Fish using tool on video


From the University of California – Santa Cruz in the USA:

Video shows tool use by a fish

September 28, 2011

The first video of tool use by a fish has been published in the journal Coral Reefs by Giacomo Bernardi, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the video, an orange-dotted tuskfish digs a clam out of the sand, carries it over to a rock, and repeatedly throws the clam against the rock to crush it. Bernardi shot the video in Palau in 2009.


“What the movie shows is very interesting. The animal excavates sand to get the shell out, then swims for a long time to find an appropriate area where it can crack the shell,” Bernardi said. “It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it’s a pretty big deal.”

The actions recorded in the video are remarkably similar to previous reports of tool use by fish. Every case has involved a species of wrasse using a rock as an anvil to crush shellfish. A report published in June in Coral Reefs included photos of this behavior in a blackspot tuskfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Bernardi said he first heard of the phenomenon in 1994, when a colleague (James Coyer) observed a yellowhead wrasse in Florida doing the same thing. Similar behavior was also reported in a sixbar wrasse in an aquarium setting.

“Wrasses are very inquisitive animals,” Bernardi said. “They are all carnivorous, and they are very sensitive to smell and vision.”

Wrasses are one of the largest and most diverse families of marine fishes. Bernardi noted that several of the species observed using tools are not closely related, but cover a broad range of evolutionary history within the wrasse family. “They are at opposite ends of the phylogenetic tree, so this may be a deep-seated behavioral trait in all wrasses,” he said.

Tool use was once considered an exclusively human trait, and Jane Goodall’s reports of tool use in chimpanzees in the 1960s came as a stunning revelation. Since then, many other animals have been observed using tools, including various primates, several kinds of birds, dolphins, elephants, and other animals.

Bernardi, who studies fish genetics, said there may be other examples of tool use in fish that have not yet been observed. “We don’t spend that much time underwater observing fishes,” he said. “It may be that all wrasses do this. It happens really quickly, so it would be easy to miss.”

Scientists believed that tool use was a trait unique only to humans, however, recent research into animals that utilize tools has proven this incorrect: here.

Coral reef collapse: eight warning signs: here.

15th century Hawaiians worked to preserve reefs, study finds: here.

Finding a home in science: Homeless teen finds fame, refuge in marine biology research: here.

Pacific eel with dinosaur age pedigree discovered


This video is called A live image of the new eel (Protoanguilla palau)

From the BBC:

17 August 2011 Last updated at 01:18 GMT

New Pacific eel is a ‘living fossil’, scientists say

A newly discovered eel that inhabits an undersea cave in the Pacific Ocean has been dubbed a “living fossil” because of its primitive features.

It is so distinct, scientists created a new taxonomic family to describe its relationship to other eels.

The US-Palauan-Japanese team say the eel’s features suggest it has a long and independent evolutionary history stretching back 200m years.

Details appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The animal used as the basis for the new study was an 18cm-long female, collected by one of the researchers during a dive at a 35m-deep cave in the Republic of Palau.

But the scientists also mention other examples of the new eel species in their research paper.

At first there was much discussion among the researchers about the animal’s affinities. But genetic analysis confirmed that the fish was a “true” eel – albeit a primitive one.

“In some features it is more primitive than recent eels, and in others, even more primitive than the oldest known fossil eels, suggesting that it represents a ‘living fossil’ without a known fossil record,” write the scientists.

In order to classify the new animal, the researchers had to create a new family, genus and species, bestowing on the animal the latin name Protoanguilla palau.

The team – including Masaki Miya from Chiba’s Natural History Museum in Japan, Jiro Sakaue from the Southern Marine Laboratory in Palau and G David Johnson from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC – drew up a family tree of different eels, showing the relationships between them.

This allowed them to estimate when the ancestors of P. palau split away from other types of eel.

Their results suggest this new family has been evolving independently for the last 200m years, placing their origins in the early Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs were beginning their domination of the planet.

The researchers say the Protoanguilla lineage must have once been more widely distributed, because the undersea ridge where its cave home is located is between 60 and 70 million years old.

See also here. And here. And here. And here.

Drug waste harms fish: here.

The first close look at the Pacific leaping blenny may offer clues to how ancient fish first made the transition to land, a new study says: here.

February 2012: Twelve per cent of marine species surveyed in the Gulf of California, the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica and the five offshore oceanic islands and archipelagos in the tropical eastern Pacific are threatened with extinction, according to a study by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Main threats to the region’s marine flora and fauna include overfishing, habitat loss and increasing impacts from the El Nino Southern Oscillation: here.