This is the cycle of societal evolution, or so it would seem. Though the elite have an annoying way of recycling their societal control strategies, this control has been proven to be quite fragile in nature. In fact, it is now well-known that tyrannical governments—though they may appear powerful—have plenty of weaknesses which oppressed people can exploit in order to free themselves from tyranny.
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A flock that moves as a group in one direction can form as birds begin to orient themselves more strongly with other birds in the group.
Flocks of birds are effective at maintaining the wellbeing of the flock. A flocking group is able to monitor a large area; gather information of what is there; relay the information to others and respond collectively to dangers and opportunities.
To examine the flocking behavior of birds, Craig Reynolds, a computer graphics researcher, created a seemingly simple steering program in 1986 called boids that helps demonstrate how flocking works. In the program generic birdlike objects, or boids, follow three simple rules: 1) avoid crowding nearby boids; 2) fly in the general direction of nearby boids, and 3) stay close to nearby boids. The result: convincing simulations of flocking behavior, including lifelike and unpredictable movements. The concept has been used to simulate swarming behavior in Hollywood movies, Sony video games and groups of small robots.
Studies by Iain Cousin at Oxford University found that a large group’say a flock of migrating birds—can head to a desired direction with only a couple of individuals knowing the way and each member of the group having two instincts; 1) staying with the group; and 2) moving in a desired direction. Two leaders may try to pull the flock in different direction but the flock tends to stay together.
These behaviors characterize birds as some of the most unified and cooperative groups in all of nature. We as people may look at such examples and consider what it would be like for us humans to get along and work together with such efficiency. Let’s look at another example on the cooperative behavior of fish.
Few aquarium scenes are more enjoyable than a group of fish swimming in unison, changing directions in an instant, yet never colliding with each other. How are fish able to swim in such perfect unison? Why do some fish swim alone while others prefer living in schools? Is it necessary to keep aquarium fish in schools?
Not everything is known about schooling behavior, but here is what experts know about how and why fish swim in schools.
Why do fish swim in schools?
First and foremost, schools protect fish from their enemies. It’s the same rule our mothers taught us as youngsters, always stay in a group because there is safety in numbers. Predators find it far easier to chase down and gobble up a fish swimming all alone, than trying to cut out a single fish from a huge group. The same holds true in reverse. Fish can better defend their territory in a group. Bullies will think twice about facing an angry school of dozens or hundreds of fish.
It is also believed that swimming close together reduces friction and allows fish to conserve energy while swimming. When dinner time comes along, food is easier to find as a group. Having fifty sets of eyes and noses gives the school a better chance of locating food. Last but not least, when fish spawn a school ensures that at least some of their eggs will elude predators due to the sheer numbers produced by a large group of fish.
How do they swim so close without colliding?
A complex combination of senses allows fish to achieve those smooth schooling movements we marvel at. At one time it was believed a leader in the school directed the movements of the entire school. However, it is now known that each fish responds to the movements of the other fish, as well as stimuli such as pheromones.
If one fish moves in a different direction all the others sense it and move accordingly.
The anatomy of fish also factors into the schooling equation. Eye placement on the sides of the head allows the fish to readily see what is next to them and move accordingly. However, sight is not the only factor used in schooling. Fish are able to establish their placement and direction in a school by using hearing, lateral line, sight, and even the sense of smell.
Again, we see an innate ability of animals to work together and make life safer and more successful for all parties involved. Many indigenous cultures operate according to these principles. However, in the “civilized world,” this balanced way of living has largely been forgotten.
If we look closely at nature, we will not only see inspiring cooperation among like animals. We can clearly see this teamwork in animals from completely different species that seem to have nothing in common. Here is an excerpt from Fromthegrapevine.com on symbiotic relationships.
You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, say plenty of animals. Different animal species help each other out all the time in the wild, using their distinct skills to get things they both want, a phenomenon called “symbiotic relationships.” Here are some of the coolest animal friendships we discovered.
Grey wolves and striped hyenas hunt together
Hyenas are taught to be tough by their parents and siblings. (Photo: njsphotography/Shutterstock)
Even though hyenas normally hunt alone, scientists were surprised to discover hyenas hunting in wolf packs in southern Israel this year.
“Animal behavior is often more flexible than described in textbooks,” said Vladimir Dinets, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who coauthored the study. “When necessary, animals can abandon their usual strategies and learn something completely new and unexpected. It’s a very useful skill for people, too.”
Hyenas get to take advantage of wolves’ impressive hunting skills. Wolves, meanwhile, make use of hyenas’ strong sense of smell and ability to break large bones, rip through garbage and open tin cans.
The seas are a whole different world. In this video, an urchin crab (it’s called that because it does this so often) carries a fire sea urchin on its back through Indonesian waters. Crabs often carry sea urchins, some of them poisonous.
It sounds a little crazy, but there are benefits to having dangerous friends: they can protect you. By carrying around sea urchins, crabs can hide from predators and even use urchins as weapons. The urchins, meanwhile, get free rides.
The honeyguide bird, which lives in Africa, lets off a special call, alerting local indigenous peoples called the Hazda. When the Hazda start following, the bird leads them to a beehive. Her call changes when they get closer, letting people know they’re getting hotter.
Why alert people like this? Well, humans are really good at a little thing called fire. By smoking out beehives, people calm bees, making them less likely to sting. This allows the Hazda to gather delicious honey for 15-20 minutes. They leave scraps of honeycomb for the honeyguide birds to finish off, making the hunt a good deal for both humans and birds.
“It’s the most developed, co-evolved, mutually helpful relationship between any mammal and any bird,” said anthropologist Richard Wrangham.
Oxpecker birds eat ticks on zebras’ coats
Nobody likes to be covered in ticks, not even zebras. So these large mammals are happy when oxpecker birds hang out on their backs, eating the ticks and parasites that annoy zebras. The zebras are free from pesky pests, and the birds get delicious meals.
But wait! There’s more! When the birds sense danger, they let out a warning call, alerting their four-hooved friends. Talk about a useful partnership.
Again, we see nature teaching us the valuable lesson that teamwork is possible for virtually anyone and is beneficial for all parties involved. We will also find that even within the predator/prey relationship, there is order and adherence to certain rules of nature which makes these relationships beneficial to nature as a whole.