Robots aren’t the only threat to human superiority; several different species in the animal kingdom are giving humans a run for our money by challenging our intelligence. The ability to use tools was once said to be the domain of humans alone. The idea of human superiority in the “tool department” still prevails, but primates, elephants, and even crows have also been seen using tools. If the inclusion of primates, elephants, and crows in the short list of tool-using animals wasn’t bad enough, the addition of fish to the list is sure to be noticed. Now, there is photographic evidence--hopefully not photoshopped--that a fish is capable of using a tool.
Photographer and diver Scott Gardner documented a “blackspot tuskfish smashing a clam on a rock until it cracks open, so the fish can gobble up the bivalve inside” after he heard a “cracking noise.” According to a press release from Macquarie University in Australia, the blackspot tuskfish’s level of skill in breaking open the clam with the rock has led researchers to believe that this was not the first time the blackspot tuskfish had performed smashed open a clamshell with a rock.
Up until this point in time, there hasn’t been any photographic evidence or proof that any kind of fish has ever actually used tools for any purpose at all, which makes Scott Gardner’s evidence is fairly groundbreaking. Fish experts and the world at large are taking note. In addition, the discovery demonstrates how little even experts still know about ocean-dwelling creatures and shows us how much researchers could benefit from further research in the sea.
If indeed fish are now capable of using tools, the idea that the use of tools is equated with intelligence might need some closer investigation. The other possibility is, of course, that the intelligence of fish has seriously been underestimated this entire time, in which case, researchers need to look at what exactly constitutes intelligence in different animals.
That said, if I were keeping score, in this particular instance, the score card would have to read something along these lines:
Scott Gardner: 10
The fish-smashing story also has a fairly non-judgmental moral: always take your camera with you when you are among wildlife because you could accidentally make a monumental discovery that changes the way people think about the world. Granted, it's unlikely, but it can't hurt at all.