TROUT and EELS in SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans

Slimy chums form deadly alliance to sweep seas

Bull trout. Credit: Joel Sartore/ National Geographic & Wade Fredenberg/ USFWS

Boffins have observed a worrying alliance between trout and eels, which have joined forces to launch a sea-had (jihad, geddit?) against other ocean-dwelling species.

Cooperation is as rare in the animal kingdom as it is in the United one, so fish-folk at the University of Cambridge were astonished to see two different underwater species working together.

They found that coral trout and eels actually cooperate as well or even better than chimpanzees, which are humanity's closest relatives.

The two species are able to chum up to flush fish out of hiding places. If a trout cannot get into a crevice in which its prey is hiding, it calls upon the eel, which is more flexible and can squeeze into tiny holes.

Sometimes the eel scoffs the target, but if it doesn't, the quarry is flushed into open water where it becomes a meal for its mate, the trout.

The Cambridge boffins were able to recreate this behaviour in the lab by hiding food in a crevice. Enterprising trout were able to distinguish between a useful eel and a fake one, which swam in the opposite direction. In fact, the trout were able to work out they needed a collaborator and then choose the right partner during 83 per cent of the experiments.

"Our results show that, like chimpanzees, trout can determine when a situation requires a collaborator and quickly learn to choose the most effective one," said Alexander Vail, a Gates Scholar from the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, who led the study.

"This study strengthens the case that a relatively small brain – compared to warm-blooded species – does not stop at least some fish species from possessing cognitive abilities that compare to or even surpass those of apes," Vail added.

In a rather bizarre bit of imaginative interviewing, the New Scientist quoted the eel/trout alliance as saying:

”Oi, moray! There's a tasty fish in that crevice, be a good chap and ferret it out for me would you?”

"Sure thing, guv'nor, but I'll eat it if I manage to catch it first, mind."

"I know the deal, old chum. Now get to it, chop chop."

El Reg has been unable to confirm the accuracy of these quotes.

All the fish-hadis need to do now is think up a name for their group. Perhaps IFISH? The Manta IRA? How about the Tamil Tigerfish? ®

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