Here’s an example of fish intelligence, courtesy of the frillfin goby, a small fish of intertidal zones of both eastern and western Atlantic shores. When the tide goes out, frillfins like to stay near shore, nestled in warm, isolated tide pools where they may find lots of tasty tidbits. But tide pools are not always safe havens from danger. Predators such as octopuses or herons may come foraging, and it pays to make a hasty exit. But where is a little fish to go? Frillfin gobies deploy an improbable maneuver: They leap to a neighboring pool.
How do they do it without ending up on the rocks, doomed to die in the sun? With prominent eyes, slightly puffy cheeks looking down on a pouting mouth, a rounded tail, and tan-gray-brown blotchy markings along a 3-inch, torpedo-shaped body, the frillfin goby hardly looks like a candidate for the Animal Einstein Olympics. But its brain is an overachiever by any standard. For the little frillfin memorizes the topography of the intertidal zone—fixing in its mind the layout of depressions that will form future pools in the rocks at low tide—while swimming over them at high tide.More.
Tool use by fishes, so far as we know, seems confined to a limited number of fish groups. Brown suggests that wrasses in particular may be the fishes’ answer to the primates among mammals and the corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, and jays) among birds in having a greater-than-expected number of examples of tool use. It could just be that living underwater offers fewer opportunities for tool use than living on land. But we do know that the tuskfishes (a member of the wrasse family) and archerfishes are prime examples of evolution’s boundless capacity for creative problem solving, and they might turn out to have plenty of company among other fishes. More.
Where some go off the rails is in assuming that because fish can be smarterthan we thought they therefore think like people.
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See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds
Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?
Animal minds: In search of the minimal self
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