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

World of Animals - - How Do An­i­mals Wage War? -

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

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