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  • Anti-predatory behavior – Behavior that either looks out for predator or seeks to avoid high predator density areas. Anti-predatory encompasses all behaviors in evaluating, avoiding, and fleeing predators.
  • Aggregation - A group of like individuals that acts a whole. Schools are aggregations because they are groups that, although made of individuals, act as a single unit while schooling.
  • Costs - Disadvantages of a behavior. Costs are reasons not to school, including increased visibility to predators or more competition. Especially if the benefits are not greater than the costs.
  • Competition - The interactions between individual for a specific resource. This is most common for spots within the school that are safest, but can also be for mates or food.
  • Density - The number of occupants per unit space. Used to describe closeness between fish in a school, a descriptive term of the school. Density can change within a school, and is often related to the speed the fish are swimming.
  • Experimentation - The best way to draw specific cause/effect relationships about behavior. Experiments often manipulate the environment or transplant individuals from one environment to another in order to isolate behavioral observations from the surroundings.
  • Fitness - The ability to propagate genes to the next generation. Fitness can be described by ability to get mates, avoid predators, and collect resources because all these behaviors increase either survival (to allow more reproduction) or reproduction opportunities themselves.
  • Foraging - The behavior of searching for and collecting resources, often used in terms of food. Fish forage by looking for areas with enough food for either themselves or an entire school.
  • Harrassment - The behavior of colliding, interfering, or otherwise disturbing another individual. Commonly seen by males against females in hopes of mating, however harassment disturbs the harassed individual and decreases their fitness by interfering with their anti-predatory or foraging efficiency.
  • Mechanics - Similar to dynamics, but focuses more on the physical scope of knowing where to swim and how to move. Mechanics are most often modeled by computer technology and conclusions drawn from these studies.
  • Membership - Being part of a school as an individual. This is not constant within a school and change depending on sex, age, or phenotype; membership of specific school can turnover completely while the school is still constant.
  • Mixed Schooling - Schooling between species, either on purpose or by accident. Mixed schooling is an aspect of schooling not well understood.
  • Observation - One of the most common ways of studying schools, primarily by watching schools in either their natural habitat or in tanks. Observation allows for patterns of behavior to be established but not for cause/effect conclusions to be determined definitively.
  • Plastic Behavior - Behavior that can change based upon environmental or other external cues. Schooling is a plastic behavior in most species as it only occurs when there is a need for it: when its benefits outweigh its costs.
  • Predation - Hunting for the purposes of eating; a form of foraging. Many schools are shaped evolutionarily by their interaction with predators, as they formed to avoid predation.
  • School - A group of fish that act as an aggregate, swimming together in unison and engaging in anti-predatory, foraging, or other behaviors.
  • Shoal - A group of fish that are found in close proximity but do not have the mechanics or dynamics that make a school. Shoals are collections of fish that do not act as one entity or aggregate.
  • Solitary - An individual who might school, but at a certain point of time is not part of a school. Solitary individuals offer a good comparison for how behaviors change in schools and what costs and benefits are obtained through schooling.
  • Stressor - An aspect of the environment that shapes evolution, ranging from predation to physical barriers. Stressors alter behavior, either at the individual level or of the species by selecting for advantageous behaviors.
  • School volume - The amount of space taken up by a school, either because of the number of individuals is larger or smaller or because the shape of the school changes in response to an environmental cue. Predation often changes the volume of school so that foraging can continue without being eaten by a predator.


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About the author

Aparna Bhaduri grew up in Wisconsin where she was an avid Green Bay Packers fan and loved biking. Upon coming to Rice University, she became interested in a variety of subjects, being involvemed with on campus research as well as the speech and debate team. Because of her diverse interests, she obtained a degree in both Biochemistry and Cell Biology as well as Political Science. She has chosen to pursue the scientist route and will be going to graduate school in cancer biology.

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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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