A new study found that rabbitfish like working together, and support each other while feeding, much like other species of animals.
Scientists had previously believed that this type of behaviour, namely reciprocal cooperation, was only common amongst other animals, such as mammals or birds, but not fish.
According to a study conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, the rabbitfish are actually very friendly while feeding, since they help each other a lot and cooperate with each other.
“We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner,” stated Dr Simon Brandl from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
In other words, when one fish feeds itself, the other fish is on the lookout for any signs of danger, and protects its partner when needed. These fish actually watch each other’s back.
Dr Brandl said that this behaviour is very uncommon with fish and that it was a surprise to see that the rabbitfish actually cooperate with their partners while feeding.
Complex social and cognitive skills are normally required in order to be able to cooperate with one another. The rabbitfish seems to have the reciprocal cooperation skill.
Also referred to as the Masked Spinefoot, this species of fish can be found in the Indo-West Pacific. The rabbitfish usually travel in pairs as they move along the reefs. The fish have a stunning yellow colour with black and white stripes on their heads, and their body has an oblong shape.
There were many debates as to whether animals that do not have highly developed social or cognitive skills would be able to cooperate with each other in different situations. This new study shows that reciprocal cooperation exits in rabbitfish, even though fish are usually considered to be unsocial, cold, and not very bright, Dr Brandl stated.
David Bellwood, a researcher of evolution and ecology of fish on coral reefs at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, believes that fish should be seen as highly developed creatures that have complex social and cognitive skills.
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