One of the main differences between humans and the rest of the animals on Earth has been our ability to use tools. It’s through tools that we were able to gather more food to feed our growing brains, which inspired us to make even more impressive tools to the point that today we are building running robots.
Initially, it was having a thumb that enabled us to use tools, but that necessity is not really a necessity anymore. In fact, hands may not be needed at all.
Giacomo Bernardi, a University of California at Santa Cruz professor of ecology and evolutionary biology recorded an orange-dotted tuskfish using a tool in the coral reefs of Palau, an island near the Philippines. While there have been pictures of fish using tools before, most recently in July, this is the first video of the process.
“What the movie shows is very interesting,” Bernardi was quoted as saying in a press release. “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. It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Whether this means that fish are smarter than we give them credit for remains to be seen, but there is the question as to whether this is a recent development for fish. The behavior has only been documented a few times before in wrasses (of which the tuskfish is), a type of fish that is carnivorous, and it’s not as if fish are widely observed underwater. Bernardi does speculate that this could be a deep-seated behavior in wrasses, but happens so quickly that it’s never been spotted before. He had been following the fish in the video for a while, and the uncut verison is over 20 minutes long. Each use of a rock didn’t take very long.
Regardless, ever since Jane Goodwell showed tool usages by chimpanzees, several different animals have been witnessed and studied using tools. Rooks are especially known for their tool skills, and this isn’t the first time a sea creature has been spotted using items. Octopi are known to collect coconut shells to put together shelter.
As such, it obvious that tool use isn’t what makes humans special. Fish don’t even have hands and they can do it. But using tools is a complex processes, involving forward thought and planning. It could be that what we know about the fish brains and intelligence levels are wrong. This is the frontier of tool use, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.
Source: Discovery News