Fish too can be supportive and cooperate to achieve a common goal, a new study suggests.
This type of highly cooperative behavior has never been observed in fish before. Typically held to be the appanage of other species in the animal kingdom, particularly with mammals and some bird species, it seems that cooperation and a true type of friendships may now be checked on the trait list of fish as well.
The study looked specifically at Rabbitfish, also coined the Masked Spinefoot and their behavior while in pairs. The research was conducted by specialists with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the James Cook University. Doctor Simon Brandl, the lead researcher and author of the study, explains:
“We found that Rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner. This behavior is so far unique among fishes and appears to be based on reciprocal cooperation between pair members”.
It might be a keen sense of survival that stems this behavior in rabbitfish pairs. Still, having each other’s back is something spectacular to be discovered in any fish species. Two members of a rabbitfish pair will take turns in feeding while the other is on a relentless lookout for any potential predators or dangers looming around.
Albeit it being a game of survival, this highly cooperative behavior is pinpointed by more according to the researchers. To reach this cooperation system, the two individuals in the the pair must hold an impressive array of social and cognitive skills.
Rabbitfish are a beautifully yellow-colored tropical fish species swimming in pairs along the reefs located in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. We might have spotted one or two if not in documentaries, then certainly in the animation movie Finding Nemo.
This cooperative behavior among rabbitfish was observed not only in male-female pairs, but in female-female and male-male pairs as well. As such, the researchers draw the conclusion that what they witnessed and researched is the case of a complex social behavior that draws on more than just survival.
Building on this exciting finding, the research team is planning to take a closer look at other fish species around. According to Doctor Brandl, who is also a behavioral ecologist:
“Rabbitfish are not the sharpest fish of the bunch”.
If rabbitfish exhibit such complex social behavior, who knows what other surprises are out there. For now, the findings of this research are published in the Nature Scientific Reports journal.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia