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Why fish swim in schools

Washington, Sept 13 : A new study has tried to shed light on genetics of how and why fish swim in schools.


The research found two key components of schooling- the tendency to school and how well fish do it- map to different genomic regions in the threespine stickleback, a small fish native to the Northern Hemisphere.

How and why fish swim in schools has long fascinated biologists looking for clues to understand the complexities of social behaviour.

The study by a team of researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center may help provide some insight.

Lead author Anna Greenwood, Ph.D., said that if researchers can identify the genes that influence the fishes' interest in being social, they may be closer to understanding how genes drive human social behaviour.

Greenwood, a staff scientist in the Human Biology Division at Fred Hutch, said that the motivation to be social is common among fish and humans.
Some of the same brain regions and neurological chemicals that control human social behaviour are probably involved in fish social behaviour as well

Fish school primarily for protection from predators, and also to make swimming and foraging more efficient. Schools of fish in the wild are dynamic and fluid.

Beyond its findings connecting specific behaviours with genomic regions, the study also found that the same regions of the genome appear to control both the stickleback's ability to school as well as the anatomy of its lateral line, a system of organs that detect movement and vibration in water, and contain the same sensory hair cells found in the human ear.

That suggests a single gene could cause fish to detect their environment differently, Greenwood said, and supports the long-held notion that schooling behaviour is controlled in part by the lateral line.

The study is published in the journal of Current Biology.

--ANI (Posted on 14-09-2013)

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