The great escape -- fleeing fish fall in line

March 31, 2007

With the unappealing prospect of being eaten, one might imagine that during a predator attack it is a case that all fish escape at once in the desperate hurry to escape as quickly as possible. However, new research indicates that this is not the case, and in fact fish in schools escape using a relatively fixed chronological order. This research was carried out at the International Marine Centre (IMC) in Sardinia, Italy, and will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Glasgow.

Scientists mimicked an aerial predator attack by mechanical stimulation and used a high speed camera to record responses in schools of ten grey mullet each. Individuals within a school were then ranked according to the timing of their escape. The experiment was performed ten times at 10 minute intervals on a total of seven separate schools of grey mullet. Interestingly, results suggested that there is a trend for individual fish to maintain a given rank, indicating that the chronological order of escape responses within a school is maintained in successive startle events.

Head of the research group Dr Paolo Domenici stated, “Our work is the first to show that fish maintained under the same conditions, with no differential treatment, show a tendency for keeping a relatively fixed chronological order of escape. This implies that in a given school certain individuals may have a greater influence on the escape strategies of the whole school.”

Researchers are keen to explore whether the tendency to keep a fixed chronological order of escape corresponds to a leadership maintained over a relatively long period of time.

Source: Society for Experimental Biology

Explore further: Like a hungry teen, life on Earth had big growth spurts

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Seeing quantum motion

August 28, 2015

Consider the pendulum of a grandfather clock. If you forget to wind it, you will eventually find the pendulum at rest, unmoving. However, this simple observation is only valid at the level of classical physics—the laws ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.