Tool use in fishes

Culum Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)


    Tool use was once considered the sole domain of humans. Over the last 40years, however, it has become apparent that tool use may be widespread across the animal kingdom. Pioneering studies in primates have shaped the way we think about tool use in animals, but have also lead to a bias both in terms of our expectations about which animals should be capable of using tools and the working definition of tool use. Here I briefly examine tool use in terrestrial animals and consider the constraints of the current working definition of tool use in fishes. Fishes lack grasping limbs and operate underwater where there are clear constraints with respect to the physics of tool use that differ dramatically from the terrestrial environment. I then examine all of the documented accounts of tool use in fishes. The review reveals that tool use seems to be confined to a limited number of fish taxa, particularly the wrasse, which may show similarities with the greater than expected number of examples of tool use in primates and corvids amongst mammals and birds, respectively. As fish are seldom studied as intensely as birds and mammals, there is a clear need for further observation of tool use in fishes. It is likely that further examples will be unveiled allowing us to perform comparative analyses of the evolution of tool use in fish.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-115
    Number of pages11
    JournalFish and Fisheries
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


    Dive into the research topics of 'Tool use in fishes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this