For the first time, scientists have observed the synchronized movement of millions of fish off New England - the same kind of “chain reaction” that will likely make the human wave move through Fenway Park later today.
A school of fish (AFP)
Scientists have long known that millions of individual fish – and birds and locusts for that matter – often operate as a unit, seamlessly changing direction, dispersing and coming back together. We’ve all seen tiny schools of fish do it in shallow salt water, of course, but Northeastern and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers were able to directly “see” this happening with hundreds of million of herring on Georges Bank.
Using new imaging techniques that allowed researchers to more frequently monitor enormous schools of fish over farther distances, the researchers discovered that as soon as these large herring populations reached a critical population density, it triggered an orchestrated movement by millions of fish over miles.
They also observed that the fish “commute” to the shallower waters of Georges Bank, where they spawn in the darkness, then return to deeper water and disband the following morning.
The findings were reported in the journal Science late last month.
“As far as we know, this is the first time we’ve quantified this behavior in nature and over such a huge ecosystem,” said Nicholas C. Makris, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at MIT, who co-led this project with Northeastern professor Purnima Ratilal.
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