Schooling

Forage fish compensate for their small size by forming schools. These sometimes immense gatherings fuel the ocean food web. Most forage fish are pelagic fish, which means they form their schools in open water, and not on the bottom (benthic fish) or near the bottom (benthopelagic fish). They are short-lived, and go mostly unnoticed by humans, apart from an occasional support role in a documentary about a great ocean predator. While we may not pay them much attention, the great marine predators are keenly focused on them, acutely aware of their numbers and whereabouts, and make migrations that can span thousands of miles to connect with them. After all, forage fish are their food.[2] Herring are among the most spectacular schooling fish. They aggregate together in huge numbers. Schools have been measured at over four cubic kilometres in size, containing about four billion fish.[12] These schools move along coastlines and traverse the open oceans. Herring schools in general have very precise arrangements which allow the school to maintain relatively constant cruising speeds. Herrings have excellent hearing, and their schools react very fast to a predator. The herrings keep a certain distance from a moving scuba diver or cruising predator like a killer whale, forming a vacuole which can look like a doughnut from a spotter plane.[13] The intricacies of schooling is far from fully understood, especially the swimming and feeding energetics. Many hypotheses to explain the function of schooling have been suggested, such as better orientation, synchronized hunting, predator confusion and reduced risk of being found. Schooling also has disadvantages, such as excretion buildup in the breathing media and oxygen and food depletion. The way the fish array in the school probably gives energy saving advantages, though this is controversial.[14] On calm days, schools of herring can be detected at the surface a mile away by little waves they form, or from several meters at night when they trigger bioluminescence in surrounding plankton. Underwater recordings show herring constantly cruising at high speeds up to 108 cm per second, with much higher escape speeds. They are fragile fish, and because of their adaptation to schooling behaviour they are rarely displayed in aquaria. Even with the best facilities aquaria can offer they become sluggish compared to their quivering energy in wild schools. Plankt n (singular plankter) are any organisms that live in the water column and are incapable of swimming against a current.[1] They provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales. These organisms include drifting animals, plants, archaea, algae, or bacteria that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification. Though many planktic (or planktonic—see the next section below) species are microscopic in size, plankton includes organisms covering a wide range of sizes, including large organisms such as jellyfish. The name plankton is derived from the Greek adjective - planktos, meaning "errant", and by extension "wanderer" or "drifter".[2] Plankton typically flow with ocean currents. While some forms are capable of independent movement and can swim hundreds of meters vertically in a single day (a behavior called diel vertical migration), their horizontal position is primarily determined by the surrounding currents. This is in contrast to nekton organisms that can swim against the ambient flow and control their position (e.g. squid, fish, and marine mammals). Within the plankton, holoplankton spend their entire life cycle as plankton (e.g. most algae, copepods, salps, and some jellyfish). By contrast, meroplankton are only planktic for part of their lives (usually the larval stage), and then graduate to either a nektic or benthic (sea floor) existence. Examples of meroplankton include the larvae of sea urchins, starfish, crustaceans, marine worms, and most fish[citation needed]. Plankton abundance and distribution are strongly dependent on factors such as ambient nutrient concentrations, the physical state of the water column, and the abundance of other plankton. The study of plankton is termed planktology and a planktonic individual is referred to as a plankter.[3] The adjective planktonic is widely used in both the scientific and popular literature, and is a generally accepted term. However, from the standpoint of formal grammar the less commonly used planktic is more strictly the correct adjective. When deriving English words from their Greek or Latin roots the gender specific ending (in this case "-on," which indicates the word is neuter) is normally dropped, using only the root of the word in the derivation.