Behavioural science: School soundings

    Credit: H. BAESEMANN/DPA/CORBIS

    Science 323, 1734–1737 (2009)

    It is difficult to study what triggers shoaling in sea fish as the conglomerations can be tens of kilometres across and yet are still hard to find in the vast oceans. Nicholas Makris of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues have observed the genesis of an entire giant shoal for the first time, using a low-frequency acoustic technique that can take snapshots of areas up to 100 kilometres across every 75 seconds.

    They found that spawning Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) around the Georges Bank in the Gulf of Maine had to reach a critical density of 0.2 fish per square metre to trigger a rapid transition from anarchy to synchronization. After this transition the fish then proceed to migrate in their millions under the influence of a small number of leader fish.

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    Behavioural science: School soundings. Nature 458, 552 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/458552a

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