Sunday morning, 7:30. Nobody out here but us and the fish. Huge schools of bunker were being chased by hungry ocean-spawned bluefish. What a show! Video clip here:
Better than the Rockettes, huh? So how do fish do that, zigzagging en masse with such precision?
Well, it turns out that fish have a “sixth sense.” An element of the nervous system that we humans don’t (nope, not even a Rockette). It’s called the “lateral line.” It most resembles human hearing, in that it is connected to the ear and operates by the vibration of small hairs. But the hairs are reacting not to soundwaves, as in hearing (which fish also have), but to water motion—even the slightest ripple. In other words, there’s no sneaking up on these guys (we’ve tried). The hairs are aligned along the body from head to tail and connect to a nerve that relays information to the brain. The result: Navigation in murky water, awareness of even a motionless rock or predator (or girl-geek with a camera) nearby, and the ability to scram! in perfect school formation.
Thanks to our good friend and fellow geekayaker, Ed, for bringing this to our attention. He read it in a book he highly recommends, Do Fish Sleep?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Fishes by Dr. Judith S. Weis, Professor of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.
How Ed feels about the Rockettes, we have no idea.