Swarms! Flocks! Schools!

It's time for school Defenders! For this school you won't need a backpack, or have to worry about any homework...all you need is a group of some of your fishy friends! You may have heard of a school of fish before...or a swarm of locusts, or a flock of birds. But what exactly are these large groupings of animals, and what purpose do they serve?

 

Well swarming behavior is a social behavior that many animals display in the wild, similar to how you might sit with your friends at lunch, or team up with people that know the information best to pass a group project. Many animal species understand this too, that as a group, a lot more can be accomplished than just one individual alone! There are a few different names for when animals group together like this depending on the type of group.

  • Swarms (for insects)
  • Schools or Shoals (for fish)
  • Flocks (for birds)
  • Herds (for four legged animals)
  • Blooms (for phytoplankton/algae)
  • Crowds (for humans!)

When animals get together in a group like this, there are a few key benefits they gain.

  • First, the group gains a level of safety from predators. Not only do they appear bigger, and can work together to fight off predators, but each individual animal can be on alert to warn the others in the group about nearby threats. Even though they are all on watch, each animal can spend less time worrying about predators since they've got tons of friends keeping watch too!
  • Second, they have a greater chance of finding a reliable food source. Even though there are many individuals that all need to be fed, they can also alert each other to a good food source and help each other get food or prey that they couldn't get alone.
  • Lastly, the group can complete many complex tasks! A single ant could never build a colony by itself, but with a group, they can create a whole system of tunnels and homes, gather large amounts of food, and fight off predators that are much bigger and stronger.

Many groups of animals will get together like this for migrating as well, since traveling as a pack adds those safety benefits. And there are many ways a large group of animals can communicate to get the job done - by sounds/vocalizations, pheromones and smells, and even dancing like honey bees!

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