Tool-using fish creates underwater kitchen gadget

Black spot tuskfish on the Great Barrier Reef shows off some smart tool-using skills to bust open shells. Today anvils. Tomorrow, fish may be buying Otterbox cases for their smartphones.

Tuskfish uses an anvil.
Fresh seafood is always the best. Click on the the above image for more pictures of the tool-wielding turkfish. Scott Gardner

Cats like iPads and laser pointers and can carry around their own tracking sensors. Dogs dig treadmills and have translator devices that turn woofs into words. Now fish are getting in on the gadget action, too.

Fish aren't yet ordering iPhones or hooking up HD television sets underwater, but a recent paper published in Coral Reefs, the journal of the International Society for Reef Studies, dove into some interesting behavior from an enterprising black spot tuskfish.

A diver at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia observed a tuskfish breaking open cockleshells on an anvil to get at the tasty tidbits inside. A series of images show the clever critter in action.

"The pictures provide fantastic proof of these intelligent fish at work using tools to access prey that they would otherwise miss out on," said Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Australia. A research team from Macquarie and Central Queensland University jointly penned the report. First anvils, and the next thing you know our scaly friends will be programming DOS.

You may not be able to talk your goldfish into setting up a Wi-Fi network, but the tuskfish behavior opens up some interesting discussions about tool use by fish. With much of the ocean remaining unexplored, it's possible that some hyper-intelligent fish are busy inventing their own aquatic versions of food processors and tablets somewhere in the watery depths.

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