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Lens of Time: Secrets of Schooling | bioGraphic

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 Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Shimmering schools of fish have dazzled scientists for centuries with their synchronized maneuvers. Now, high-speed video is revealing how—and why—they do it.

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Originally published on bioGraphic: http://bit.ly/2ftce5K

Produced by Spine Films
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With their chubby bodies, soft, padded feet, and slow-motion gait, South American velvet worms appear pretty harmless. Unless they’re hungry, and you’re an insect. Over millennia, these ancient creatures have evolved a pair of hunting weapons unlike any other in nature: dual high-speed canons capable of jetting viscous slime onto their prey from up to two feet away. Delivered with such power and speed, the velvet worm’s slime canon takes the element of surprise to new levels. And because the goo is delivered through narrow, flexible tubes and expelled with such tremendous force, it can cover a vast area in a matter of milliseconds. Until recently, biologists still didn’t know exactly how these slime canons work. But then Andres Concha, a Chilean physicist who studies the physical mechanisms in biological systems, turned his attention to velvet worms. Concha and his team used high-speed cameras to film slime canons in action.
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Discover more beautiful and surprising stories about nature and sustainability at www.biographic.com

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Collective behavior is embodied in swarms of insects, flocks of birds, herds of antelope, and schools of fish. In each of these cases, individuals move through their environment and respond to threats and opportunities almost simultaneously, forming an undulating enclave that seems to operate as a single entity. Such coordinated movement requires the rapid and efficient transfer of information among individuals, but understanding exactly how this information spreads through the group has long eluded scientists. Studying this behavior in schools of fish has been incredibly challenging, because the cues that drive it occur at lightening speed, come from multiple directions and sources, and of course because all of it takes place underwater. Now, Iain Couzin and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology at the University of Konstanz, Germany are using new observation techniques and technologies—including high-speed video, motion-tracking software, and advanced statistical modeling—to reveal the mysterious mechanics of schooling fish. Their findings may shed light on the evolution and benefits of collective behavior across the animal kingdom.

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Discover more beautiful and surprising stories about nature and sustainability at www.biographic.com

* Facebook: biographic.magazine
* Instagram: @biographic_magazine
* Twitter: @bioGraphic

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