Fish Care About Each Other: Pairs Cooperate and Support One Another

First Posted: Sep 28, 2015 08:26 PM EDT

It turns out that fish really do care about each other. Scientists have found that pair of rabbitfish will cooperate and support each other while feeding.

"We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner," said Simon Brandl, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In other words, one partner stays 'on guard' while the other feeds-these fishes literally watch each others' back. This behavior is so far unique among fishes and appears to be based on reciprocal cooperation between pair members."

Reciprocal cooperation requires an investment in a partner. It also is later reciprocated, and is assumed to require complex cognitive and social skills. However, researchers have long believed that fish don't possess these skills.

"There has been a long standing debate about whether reciprocal cooperation can exist in animals that lack the highly developed cognitive and social skills found in humans and a few species of birds and primates," said Brandl. "By showing that fishes, which are common 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."

The findings reveal a bit more about fish and show that, contrary to popular belief, these animals are actually far more social and caring toward one another than previously thought.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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