• Damon Swisher

Farmer Fish Uses Shrimp to Farm in Unique Example of Non-human Domestication

It's cold, maybe it's rainy - you're stomach growls with hunger as you haven't eaten in days. You managed to track a deer through a thick forest, and to your elation, you may manage to survive the week having landed a hit on it with your arrows. Unfortunately for you, the deer was just as considerate of it's own survival, and it took off through the undergrowth, quickly disappearing from sight.

But you don't worry. Like a flash of terrible lightning, your loyal companion - a free-breeding, ancient species of dog - darts from your side after the wounded animal. The deer was fast, but you know your furry friend is faster.

As a human, you would be able to wound an animal from a significant distance with your ingenious propelled weaponry. But there are times where a ruthless, rapid animal like a dog could increase your hunting success by being able to track, locate, and run down any near-misses. The dog knew this, it also knew that with you, his hunger had decreased significantly overtime.

Human-animal domestication exhibits a key part of our historic survival - from dogs nearly 15,000 years ago to cows, sheep, and even cats (for the culture probably, definitely not the meat!). For decades scientists studied other species besides ourselves, looking for unique examples where nature may have been able to replicate this special bond. And as fortune would have it, they found it - in the ocean, no less - the biome we focus most of our attention here at TheVast.

Researchers from the Griffith and Deakin Universities jointly observed a farmer fish in Belize in both it's natural habitat and within lab studies to describe this unique behavior. It appears that the Longfin Damselfish (Steglastes Diencaeus), a fish that feeds off of algae "farms" growing in it's environment, domesticated a species of Mysid Shrimp (Mysidius Integrum) which is attracted to the scent of the damselfish. The researchers tested this behavior, and found that the shrimp were not attracted to non-farming fish, and were repelled by the odor of predators.

The results of the study are very interesting; the presence of mysid shrimp improved the health of the damselfish as well as their algae farms. This is because the feces of the mysid shrimp provide the damselfish a sort of fertilizing agent, much like a human landlubbing farmer would use cow manure on his crops. In response, the fish protect the shrimp from it's natural predators by scaring them off, completing the mutualistic cycle. This is the first case of non-human domestication ever discovered, and the history between the two species is still being studied.

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