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Eel-Grouper Hunting

January 22, 2007

Two rival fish team up to hunt for food.


A one-two punch from rival fish. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Moray eels and grouper fish should be enemies, since they compete for the same prey. But now, scientists have extensively documented them hunting together in the Red Sea. According to behavioral ecologist Redouan Bshary of the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, a grouper will actually invite a moray eel to a joint hunt with a distinctive head shake. If the eel accepts, the grouper hunts in the open water, while the eel wriggles into the crevices of coral reefs.

REDOUAN BSHARY (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland):
And if you have both predators at the same time, then the prey has a problem. It’s not safe in the open, because there’s the grouper, and it’s not safe in the reef, because there’s the moray eel…

… and as a result, a grouper can catch up to five times as many fish as it would get on its own, even while its partner reaps a comparable haul. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.