Rabbitfish Look Out for Friends, Study Reveals

posted: 09/28/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
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Feeding fish have one another's backs -- literally.

In a newly published study, James Cook University researchers reveal that rabbitfish have been observed "standing guard" to protect their feeding friends for the first time.

Scientists have repeatedly observed mammals and birds partaking in similar social behaviors, although it was widely believed that fish were not capable of the complex cognition required for such relationships.

Two rabbitfish swimming
Tatiana Vdb via Flickr

"By showing that fishes, which are commonly considered to be cold, unsocial, and unintelligent, are capable of negotiating reciprocal cooperative systems, we provide evidence that cooperation may not be as exclusive as previously assumed," study lead author Dr. Simon Brandl says in a news release.

"Our findings should further ignite efforts to understand fishes as highly developed organisms with complex social behaviours. This may also require a shift in how we study and ethically treat fishes," adds co-author Simon Bellwood.

Brandl and Bellwood's research is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.


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