Science News

Hunting Fish Talk Team Tactics

Sun, 10th Dec 2006

Part of the show Dark Matter, Life on Mars and Galactic Collisions

Have any of you been watching on TV or over the internet the BBC's latest natural history documentary, Planet Earth? If you have, you might have seen the episode on shallow seas, in which dozens of swarming sea snakes went hunting with two other species of fish - an incredible cross-species phenomenon that was only very recently discovered on a remote island in Indonesia. Well, this week, another team of scientists have published a study revealing similar startling behaviour and cooperation between a different set of reef creatures - and not only do these guys hunt together, but they also talk about it too. The fishes in question, are moray eels - long thin slippery fish that hide among the gaps and crevices in coral reefs, and the large predatory groupers, who hang around and catch their prey in open water. These two have been seen hunting together before, with the eel chasing down prey inside the reef, and the groupers catching any fish that try to escape. But for the first time, Redouan Bshary and his team of scientists from the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, have seen the groupers communicating to the eels. While diving through the beautiful coral reefs of the Ras Mohammed National Park in Egypt, they noticed groupers were approaching moray eels and repeatedly nodding their heads from side to side - an invitation for eel and grouper to combine their hunting efforts. When the eel notices the nodding grouper, it immediately leaves its place in the reef and swims off with his new hunting partner. The team also noticed, that when a grouper chased a fish into the reef it would stand on its head and point in the right direction for the moray eel to slither in after it and dig out the prey.

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