Flock You

colonies, schools, flocks, clubs          January 31, 2015 A school of 10,000 fish swims as if the entire cohort is a single organism. The school moves at the same speed and in the same direction. The entire school changes direction and speed simultaneously.  How do they communicate?  Is there an envelope of electrically charged ions that surround them all and any change is transmitted at the speed of light? Is it simply a domino effect with a change in one body cascading to them all in short order?  Is the dorsal fin an antenna picking up a radio signal from the most alarmed fish that would be the one closest to a predator?

A single termite wandering away from its colony will push around a tiny clod of dirt in a random wander.  A million of these creatures will build a remarkable, large “urban” structure comprising 1,000 cubic feet of earth filled with tunnels, caves, air vents, temperature control, gardens, etc.

Interchangeable leadership in fish and geese vs fixed leadership in ants, pistol shrimp termites and bees, no apparent leadership in corals, stromatolites, fungi, pterobranchs, pyrosomes, bryozoans, hydrozoans

Do schooling fish use the same neurochemistry as flocking geese?  as clubby humans? herds of reindeer?  What are the various forms of communication? Do humans use any capability other than language in order to gather in groups, cliques, gangs?  Smell? Pheromones? visual cues? propinquity rules?  Is gossip among humans a flocking mechanism?

Humans select leaders vis long drawn out processes, wolves decide the “A” male among themselves, among wild African dogs, pack leadership is inherited from a leader-mother.

At what age is a male human signalled to follow leaders rather than to make the extra effort to be a leader?  Is this learned from a parent or is it genetic or is it both? Is leadership potential worked out in schoolyard fights?  bullying outcomes?  Is the leadership drive in humans the result of a protein added to a hormone present in the neurons? Is it simply a memory of some sort?

Any flock of birds appears to have a pecking order.  Is there a pecking order among schooling fish?

At what juncture is a school of fish or a flock of birds a single individual?

Is a mammal a flock of once separate individual organs presently working in harmony?

Is the difference between a kidney and a liver different than that between fish “A” and fish “B” in a school of fish?

“Exclusivity of organismal selection is the raw nerve of Darwinism.” S. Gould