notes from DANIEL KNOP
Afew years ago, everyone was talking about Frank Schätzing’s bestselling marine-science-fiction ovel, The Swarm, which has sold around 4 million copies and has been translated into 27 languages. Originally titled Der Schwarm in German, the book describes the threat to mankind by an unknown, intelligent marine life form, the Yrr.
Not to spoil the plot, but many
creatures of the sea, from mussels and jellyfish to Humpback Whales, start rebelling
against humans. They do it in
“schwarms” that are simply
The fascination of swarm
formation—the grouping together of individuals into a
mighty force—pervades the
novel, which has received
much praise for its scientific
accuracy. A parallel in the
movie world is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which has
enthralled and terrified audiences for decades.
The phenomenon of
swarming, flocking, schooling,
and shoaling in mammals,
birds, and fishes is fascinating
to humans from both an aesthetic and a functional point
of view: the behavior is visually stunning, even mysterious,
and the formation of a group
generates powers an isolated
individual doesn’t have by itself.
Almost every coral-reef
aquarist would like to have a
shoal of fishes in his or her aquarium, but most of us
know little about the fundamentals of schooling and
shoaling, which isn’t the same in all species and all situations. The well-intentioned maintenance of a shoal in
the aquarium can still encounter many pitfalls.
Even public aquariums don’t always get it right. I
once visited a large public aquarium in Manila, Phil-
ippines, where they proudly showed me a vast tank
containing hundreds of Naso lituratus (Naso Tang, or
Orangespine Unicornfish). Naturally, it was impres-
sive—this immense marine aquarium with a mass of
surgeonfishes the size of frying pans—but the aquarists
were concerned because these fishes were very short-
lived. There was no doubt they were a shoaling fish, I was
assured: enormous groups of
this species had been seen in the
sea, so why were these “shoaling
fishes” hammering one another
in the aquarium?
KORALLE International Editor Daniel knop receiving
the nano Award from film and television celebrity
Enie van de Meiklokjes at InterZoo 2010, nuremberg.