Golden shiner fish congregate in schools that actively seek out shaded areas of lakes and ponds. The image shows lab animals that were implanted with fluorescent silicone tags to track their schooling behavior. Careful study of the behavior of different school sizes shows that larger schools of fish are much better at finding shaded areas than smaller ones. Such “collective intelligence” is a general feature of groups of social animals, including humans. Many groups of wild animals depend on collective intelligence for behaviors such as migration, breeding, and finding food. So, anything that reduces or breaks up a school or herd—such as overfishing, hunting, or habitat loss—may have sudden, unexpected consequences for the species.
Iain D. Couzin PhD., Department of Collective Behaviour, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany