Back to school? For fish, it’s a year-round way of life!

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Well it’s that time of the year again…summer winding down and hints of fall in the air. It can mean only one thing: millions of children, flocking back to schools across the country. For kids and young adults, going to school is a necessity to shape their young brains and enrich their lives – meant to prepare them for the future.

Meanwhile, hundreds of feet below the surface, ‘school’ takes on an entirely different meaning. Throughout the ocean, 365 days a year, millions of fish species gather in large clusters – swimming together in a synchronized, uniform motion known as schooling.

Schooling Menhaden in Shark Realm

Schooling Menhaden in Shark Realm

There are several reasons why fish school, but it’s primarily for predator avoidance. There’s power in numbers! Schooling gives fish the appearance that it’s a larger organism, working to deter predators. Predators often key in on a single individual for a successful kill, and may be confused when stumbling upon a closely spaced school. The sheer number of fish in a school allows species to hide behind each other, thus confusing predators by ever-changing shapes and colors.

Photo Credit: National Geographic

Photo Credit: National Geographic

And much as humans adapt to going to school as they get older, a fish’s schooling behavior strengthens as it matures and as sense organs develop – especially sight. Since a fish’s eyes are on the side of its head, this placement allows them to be extra sensitive to lateral movement, an important skill for schooling and being able to see what other fish in their group are doing.

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Schooling Tang

At Adventure Aquarium, we have a variety of schooling fish, and you can spot them in places including our Shark Realm exhibit, where the Menhaden perform natural patterns of schooling that resemble living art! There are also schooling Tangs in our “Secret Weapon” exhibit, Bannerfish in “Coral Cluster,” as well as Cownose Rays, Crevale Jacks, Lookdowns and Blue Runners in our Ocean Realm exhibit.

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