groupers and moray eels forge powerful underwater alliances
Interspecies partnerships are rare among fish, but these reef dwellers prove that such combinations can be effective
War often involves unlikely alliances, and this is also true of hunting partnerships between animals. While intelligent mammals like chimps have been studied extensively in terms of their collaborative skills, few researchers expected to witness coalitions between fish.
Roving coral groupers and moray eels have been observed working together as an unstoppable hunting team. The two fish have complementary skills – the grouper is a fast open-water swimmer, while the moray specialises in squeezing into tight underwater crevices to reach prey within. The alliance is formed by the grouper, which shakes its head in a recognisable motion to signal its intent for collaboration.
If it’s hungry, the moray will follow its fellow predator towards a hole and flush out any prey within, allowing the grouper to seal the deal by catching its dinner in open water. This complex behaviour is widely considered a sign of animal intelligence – proof that fish may be smarter than we give them credit for.
right The grouper will perform its head-shaking dance more slowly above a crack in which prey is hiding, alerting the eel