Planet Earth

Holy carp! Fish can use tools too!

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Photo: flickr/happy days photos and artThere are numerous lobster-vations of non-human animals using tools on porpoise, but when it came to tool usage among fish, until now, we have been floundering in the shallows. These fintastic researchers took the bait, and oh, my Cod, did they start reeling in the data! You don't need to be a brain sturgeon to have a halibut time reading this whale of a paper, but if you can think of additional controls (or bad fishy puns if you've haddock enough), let minnow. Not to carp on the subject, but I've got a good eeling about the comment thread for this post!Innovative behaviour in fish: Atlantic cod can learn to use an external tag to manipulate a self-feeder. "This study describes how three individual fish, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.), developed a novel behaviour and learnt to use a dorsally attached external tag to activate a self-feeder. This behaviour was repeated up to several hundred times, and over time these fish fine-tuned the behaviour and made a series of goal-directed coordinated movements needed to attach the feeder's pull string to the tag and stretch the string until the feeder was activated. These observations demonstrate a capacity in cod to develop a novel behaviour utilizing an attached tag as a tool to achieve a goal. This may be seen as one of the very few observed examples of innovation and tool use in fish." Bonus figure from the full text:

Fig. 1: Goal-directed self-feeder activation with the tag. a Close-up of the tag bead attaching to the self-feeder trigger pulley (i.e. gut line with a soft plastic bead at the end). b Four stages of a goal-directed tag activation by a cod. In a circular (anticlockwise) movement, the fish carefully approaches the trigger pulley (1), positions the trigger under the tag bead (2), swims forwards to activate the feeder (3) and then releases the bead from the trigger and swims to the dispensed food (4) Related content: NCBI ROFL: A foot needs a nipple like a fish needs a bicycle. NCBI ROFL: New plan for health care reform: train monkeys to perform endoscopies. NCBI ROFL: A new use for slugs: as shampoo testers.

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