Study Finds Rabbitfishes Support Each Other While Feeding

Posted on September 29, 2015

Rabbitfish Cooperation

A new study has found that rabbitfish cooperate and support each other while feeding. One rabbitfish will stand guard while the other forages for feed. This enables the feeding fish to eat without having to also keep an eye out for danger.

The study was conducted by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. The researchers say this type of behavior was previously thought impossible for fishes. It has been documented in birds and mammals.

Dr Simon Brandl from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies says in the announcement, "We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner. In other words, one partner stays 'on guard' while the other feeds - these fishes literally watch each others' back."

Dr. Brandl also says, "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."

A research paper on the study was published here in the journal, Nature.

Photo: Jordan Casey