Study: Some Fish Thrive in Unorganized Conditions

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. forage / ˈfɔr ɪdʒ / (v) – to search for something that can be eaten or used

    I saw some squirrels foraging for acorns at the park.

  2. sporadically / spəˈræd ɪk li / (adv) – in a manner that is not regular or constant

    Some flowers appear sporadically throughout the summer months.

  3. disorderly / dɪsˈɔr dər li / (adj) – messy or unorganized

    The secretary’s desk is disorderly. Folders and piles of paper are everywhere.

  4. constrain / kənˈstreɪn / (v) – to pressure someone or something to behave or act in a particular way

    The students felt constrained by their teacher’s strict rules.

  5. dynamics / daɪˈnæm ɪks / (n) – the manner in which people or things act, behave, and influence each other

    The department conducts regular team-building activities to improve its team dynamics.


Read the text below.

A new study found that some fish in shoals, or large numbers of fish swimming together, forage for food better when the group is disorganized.

Researchers from the University of Bristol observed 12 groups of fish for a month. They determined the speed at which individual fish in shoals located food that suddenly and sporadically appeared in their environment. The groups were examined several times so that the scientists could determine how individual fish performed under both orderly and disorderly shoal conditions.

Results showed that the fastest fish to find food were those that tended to swim less aligned with the majority of other orderly fish in the shoal. These disorderly fish swam in a manner where they could respond faster than others when food was available.

The team said that a disorderly condition was favorable for these fish because they were not constrained to look in the same direction as the rest of the shoal. The disorder gave them a better line of sight.

According to the researchers, while an organized shoal may be beneficial for many fish, order may not always be a good thing for those that are good at foraging food on their own.

The researchers added that the study calls for further investigation of the dynamics involved in group animal behavior and the significance of individual differences among animals.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Aside from fish, what animals should scientists study in terms of group behavior? Why?
• Which is more interesting to study, the individual or group behavior of animals? Why?

Discussion B

• Do you think a lot of people can work well under disorderly conditions? Why or why not?
• Do you agree that there are advantages to working in disorderly conditions? Why or why not?