Fish collaborate with other species and make rational choices about when and with whom to do so. This amazing behaviour was demonstrated in an experiment at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station by Alex Vail, Andrea Manica and Redouan Bshary. The results have been published here in Current Biology. See also Nature.
The experiment involved the unlikely pairing of a coral trout Plectropomus leopardus with a life-like image of a moray eel. The decisions made by the trout in eliciting the moray’s help to capture prey were a revelation. Previously it was thought that chimpanzees were the only non-human species capable of determining with whom to elicit cooperation and when it was necessary.
Alex Vail is the son of Station directors Anne Hoggett and Lyle Vail. He spent his childhood on Lizard Island and has just completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He is currently working as a freelance underwater cameraman, contracted by the BBC Natural History Unit on their landmark series Oceans. See Alex Vail’s showreel – 2015.
Peter Sale has written a wonderful article providing context for all this, with a PDF link to the full text of the Current Biology paper. Peter cites Marshall McLuhan: If I had not believed it, I would never have seen it.