Diver Snaps First Photo of Fish Using Tools
Photos at ScienceNOW.
While exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Fortunately, Gardner had a camera handy and snapped what seem to be the first photographs of a wild fish using a tool.
Tool use, once thought to be the distinctive hallmark of human intelligence, has been identified in a wide variety of animals in recent decades. Although other creatures don’t have anything quite like a circular saw or a juice machine, capuchin monkeys select “hammer” rocks of an appropriate material and weight to crack open seeds, fruits, or nuts on larger “anvil” rocks, and New Caledonian crows probe branches with grass, twigs, and leaf strips to extract insects. In addition to primates and birds, many animals, including dolphins, elephants, naked mole rats, and even octopuses, have shown forms of the behavior.