‘The clever handcrafter’ by Mia Von Scheven

Let me tell you a story about a little inquisitive fish, living at the other side of the earth in Australia, at a place called the Great Barrier Reef. He lived between the most colourful garden in the sea made out of corals, sharing the space with thousands of different other sea creatures.

The name of his family was Choerodon anchorago but everyone just called him Rago – which is much easier. Rago and his family were not as colorful as other fishes around them; they had a little bit of a yellow stripe on the side of their bodies but other than that they were rather plain with a white tummy and a black greyish colour on the back.

You can recognize them very easily as they do have quite big lips, despite the fact that they are just half the size of a cod fish.

Rago felt quite sad sometimes that he wasn’t as colourful as all the other fishes around him. He didn’t feel special, although his mom always told him how much she loved him and how special he was - she just wasn’t able to cheer him up sometimes.

Rago’s grandmother used to tell Rago and his friends stories about the animals on land. Strange animals with legs and arms or even hands like the monkeys. They use their hands to grab some tools in order to open up their food.

Monkeys do use sticks or stones to open up fruits. The otter does take a stone and, while lying on the back with a mussel on his tummy, tries to open it up by cracking the stone on it.

Grandmother used to say that these are very smart and special animals.

There it was again – every animal was special, except Rago himself. Poor little Rago.

But Rago had an idea. If a monkey, who wasn’t very colorful but rather boring looking, can be special by using a tool to open up a fruit, why can’t he?

His family wasn’t very happy about Rago’s idea to use tools in order to gain food.

His father told him that this is not a fish-like behavior and he should stop thinking about this nonsense. His mom would say, while talking to her friends, something like “well, yes, Rago is a bit different in comparison to other fishes”.

Every morning Rago was swimming to the end of the riff. What was he looking for? He looked under a coral and another one and another until he found what he was looking for – a mussel. A closed mussel with a delicious inside – exactly what he was looking for. If he just would be able to open it.

He tried to remember what grandmother had told him about the otter and how he used to open up the mussel - but his fins were of no use here.

Then he had an idea. He took the mussel in his mouth, holding it tight with his big lips – his plain mouth was excellent for this kind of purposes.

He then swum all the way back. This could actually work he thought.

He stopped at an old dead coral, that looked like a stone - his work bench. This will be HIS tool.

Rago then knocked the mussel at his workbench. Again and again and again, thereby keeping the mussel tight with his lips and jaw. You could hear the sound of it clearly when you listen carefully.


He was very ambitious and didn’t stop – it must be possible to open it when knocking it to his chosen anvil.

After 20 minutes Rago was still trying to open up the mussel and if you look very closely you could see that very slowly the mussel began to open and with big CRACK – there it was – done, a delicious snack. Only there due to the use of a tool and a very inventive and special fish.

Well done Rago and welcome to the club of tool using animals.

His family was very proud of their little boy. Nobody ever expected that a simple fish would be able to join that club that normally only animals like monkeys or otter belong to. Rago could proof that fishes are smarter than expected and are able to use tools for their purposes, like other animals on land.

Since then everyone from the Choerodon anchorago family learned how to use the tool in order open up mussels.

If you are lucky enough to get a chance to swim at the Great Barrier Reef, have a dive and listen carefully… You may be able to hear the clicking sound when Rago or his family are using the anvil tool to open up a mussel.