A news study has found that every cartoon you’ve ever seen is true. Marine biologists are saying that certain types of fish are able to look after each other and generally work together when it’s time to feed.
• Description of the behavior noticed and Rabbitfish.
• Explanation of the mechanism at the core of the friendship and comparison to other species.
• Possible implications of the new study.
• How the researchers’ view of fish is changing.
Field expert from James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Queensland) have discovered that Rabbitfish form pairs and keep each other safe while they’re out foraging for food.
While this type of behavior has been observed in animals before, those were highly social species of mammals and birds. But fish were not believed to have the social skills or mental capacity to exhibit such a behavior, so Dr Simon Brandl and his colleagues were highly excited when they made the discovery.
He gave a statement saying that the research team “found that Rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner”. What this means is that one of the two partners stays close and guards the other while he or she eats.
Dr Brandl went on to add that “these fishes literally watch each others’ back”, and he stressed that this behavior is unique among fish species as far as the scientific community knows. However, the researchers were able to say that the relationship seems to be built on the reciprocal cooperation between food foraging partners.
While another recent study has shown that some types of fish have the capacity to think logically, field experts are amazed as the newly discovered behavior does not only imply a certain level of intelligence, but said intelligence is mixed with social investment and an understanding that the favor will be reciprocated later.
Dr Brandl insists that he and his colleagues have witnessed clear coordination and reciprocal cooperation among pairs of Rabbitfish. He says that scientists have long debated whether or not reciprocal cooperation can even exist in species “that lack the highly developed cognitive and social skills” that humans, and various species of primates, mammals, and birds are known to posses.
The new study has valuable implications fir future studies as it indicates that reciprocal cooperation may be more widespread than the scientific community previously believed.
Since fish are generally considered to be unintelligent, unsocial, and cold, and yet they are able to negotiate reciprocal cooperative systems, this may mean that other so called unintelligent species and organisms may exhibit the sane behavior.
Professor David Bellwood, one of Dr Brandl’s colleagues from James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, gave a statement if his own empathizing that the field experts have started changing their view of fish quite dramatically in recent years.
He also hopes that the new research will further ignite the efforts to better understand fish and start looking at them as highly developed organisms that have complex social behaviors.
One major implication of the study is that it may require a change in how researchers study and treat fish, from an ethical perspective.
The findings were published earlier this week, in the Journal Nature Scientific Reports.