Fish Using Tools Caught on Video!

This video, captured by University of California Santa Cruz professor Giacomo Bernardi, shows an orange-dotted tuskfish (Choerodon anchorago) cracking open a clam by throwing it against a rock. Other fish from the wrasse family have also been observed using similar techniques to crack open clams. These include the blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii), yellowhead wrasse (Halichoeres garnoti), and a sixbar wrasse (Thalassoma hardwicke). Tool use among fish is not well-studied. For a fish to plan such an elaborate scheme (digging up the clam, finding a suitable rock to use as an anvil, and cracking the clam open) is really quite impressive. More research into the use of tools by these beautiful fish is clearly warranted.

In his short article, Dr. Bernardi describes how this behavior is exhibited in three genera of wrasses (the ancestral Choerodon, and the more derived Halichoeres and Thalassoma). Because the animals use the same similar movements of the head to toss the clams, he suggests that these behaviors may either have evolved independently for the species mentioned or may be a common trait that might be found in other wrasse.

Bernardi G. The Use of Tools by Wrasses (Labridae). Coral Reefs. September 20, 2011.


  1. #1 Emily
    September 29, 2011

    Seeing that fish have never been thought of as intelligent, it is very interesting to see that they understand enough to discover how to attain what they want using the resources provided. It’s also neat to see the effects of evolution such as their increased comprehension.

  2. #2 Barb
    September 30, 2011

    And my “fetch-obsessed” golden retriever sometimes forgets where he put his ball.

  3. #3 bomoore
    October 1, 2011

    It is interesting to note that the fish throws the clam horiziontally. To drop it on a rock, as some birds do, would be totally ineffective in water – the clam would merely sink slowly. The fish knows physics….

  4. #4 Marni
    October 2, 2011

    I always wondered how similar we humans were to these underwater creatures. Having a fish tank at home I look for human like activity but usually don’t see much. After watching this video it got me thinking if these fish do anything else human like that just hasn’t been caught on video yet. This video also made me wonder if only this certain type of fish can do this human like action or if other fish are capable as well. I guess only time will tell.

  5. #5 Erin
    October 3, 2011

    This also reminds me of my dog when she wants to either rip a toy or break a piece of food that is too big. She uses the same technique of whipping her head to the side to throw the object horizontally at a wall to try to break it. It is very smart and usually gets the job done for her.

  6. #6 Mike
    October 4, 2011

    Wow, this is amazing! Today, I see fish as just creatures that roam in water without a care in the world. I wouldn’t think that they were smart enough to be using their enviornment to obtain food. Compared to the fish that I used to have that just swam in the waters without purpose, this is something completely different from them. This completely changed my views about fish.

  7. #7 Jen
    October 30, 2011

    Yea that is amazing. Has anyone grown a TickleMe Plant yet? I love showing off my favorite plant that MoVes,closes its leaves and lowers its branches when Tickled. Even as a plant lover I did not hear about this till I found it on youtube. This is the one gift that everyone should grow.