Fish could be more intelligent than we’ve given them credit for in light of new footage that shows grouper coral working with an octopus to catch their prey.
Their remarkable interactions were captured during a shoot for BBC One’s Blue Planet II and will be shown on TV for the first time tomorrow night.
Astounding use of rudimentary sign language demonstrates a level of intelligence that could rival chimpanzees – our closest relative in the animal kingdom.
Grouper fish and octopus hunt the same small fish for food, which are often able to outsmart the larger creatures by hiding in the coral’s small crevices.
But in awe-inspiring footage filmed on the Great Barrier Reef for Sir David Attenborough’s new programme it appears the two rival predators have decided two heads are better than one and opted to work together instead.
Footage from episode three of Blue Planet II shows a grouper coral fish (left) team up with an octopus to catch its prey
Their solution sees the grouper fish chase the smaller ones into a crevice and then turn a paler colour to attract the octopus’ attention.
They then stand on their heads and wiggle their tails to indicate there’s a tasty meal hiding in one of the holes.
It then comes down to the octopus to place its tentacles in one of the crevices to grab their prey.
Viewers will be able to witness the impressive partnership for themselves on tomorrow night’s ‘Reef’ episode of Blue Planet.
Sir David, who narrates the series, told The Telegraph: ‘The fish takes fright and swims straight into the grouper’s jaws.
‘Sometimes the octopus gets the reward, sometimes the grouper does.
‘These very different species have discovered that teamwork brings success.’
Dr Alex Vail, a Cambridge University scientist turned camerman, who was behind the amazing footage told the newspaper: ‘When I first saw it, I was blown away.
The amazing images show fish could be just as intelligent as chimpanzees. Narrator Sir David Attenborough (pictured) says the creatures have discovered that ‘teamwork brings success’
‘What’s fascinating is there seems to be intention behind it.
‘The grouper has formulated a plan and is aware of what the outcome might be, and then carries it out.
‘Which shows a similar level of intelligence as chimpanzees. And that’s without anything like the same brainpower.
‘We have seen grouper do similar headstand signalling and shimming to attract the attention of moray eels, but the eels often don’t quite get what they are supposed to do.
‘And the grouper sometimes has to go and nudge it in the right direction.
‘You don’t have that with the octopus. It knows what’s going on and it’s straight over. Which actually makes it harder to film.’
The episode’s producer Jonathan Smith commented: ‘What we discovered is that this fish is capable of forward planning and co-operatively hunting with a completely unrelated animal, in this case an octopus.
‘The grouper finds the fish and if he can’t get to it in the coral he goes off and does a display to the octopus.
‘He puts his head down, flashes white, wiggles in front of the octopus and gets its attention.
‘Then they both come over to where the fish is hiding and if the octopus wants to play, it can use its tentacles to get in and actually flush the fish out.
‘Once it’s out in the open the coral grouper gets the fish about half the time, and about half the time the octopus snags it.
‘If we’d have tried to film that sequence a few years ago we’d have ended up filming a lot of it from slightly above.
‘With the underwater probe camera we managed to get inside the reef and you’re looking in the reef like you’re a little fish with these octopus tentacles coming down all around you.
‘You really feel like you’re experiencing this behaviour.’
Another amazing bit of team work filmed for this week’s episode is when a shoal of bream come together to get rid of some sand covering up a dangerous bobbit worm.
Usually the metre-long creatures lie low before sucking fish to the ocean floor, but the breams’ handiwork means they can expose them before it’s too late and avoid their deadly jaws.
Clownfish are also filmed off the coast of Borneo moving a coconut shell near their anemone so the female can lay eggs there.
Director of the show James Honeyborne said: ‘It’s a remarkable story.
‘Reefs are one of the most competitive areas to live in the ocean so to get ahead you’ve got to come up with these ingenious techniques.’
Episode three of Blue Planet II will air on BBC One on Sunday at 8pm.