With the assurance of experience, the orange-dotted turk fish in this video digs up a clam and then swims off to rocks to break it open. Again and again, the fish tosses the shell against the rocks.
Giacomo Bernardi, a professor at UC Santa Cruz, has been studying wrasse fish for the last 15 years. What he has discovered adds another nail in the coffin of our human tendency to figure we are the only animals on the planet who think, plan, communicate, or feel.
Bernardi has witnessed wrasses using tools many times, but two years ago he captured this one on video. In an interview for the Silicon Valley Mercury News, he said, “The fish is doing a number of really complex things. First it is excavating the sand to fish out the clam, and then it swims for a long time to find the proper place to break it. The fish is planning the whole action.”
Fish intelligence is easy to dismiss because our finned relatives live in watery surroundings that make them harder to observe. What Bernardi’s work shows us is how little we know about the lives of fish. Maybe if we learn more we will give more respect to these fellow creatures.