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Regulation of marine populations and ecosystems by schooling

 

Schools, shoals and swarms are pervasive in the oceans. They have to provide very strong advantages to have been selected by evolution. Using a modelling approach, it is shown that large groups appear at high population density while only small groups remain at low density.

 

This demonstration is based on fish tagging data analysis and theoretical developments that large groups expose individuals to a dramatic decrease of foraging success  and simultaneous increase of mortality while small groups avoid these adverse feedbacks. This would create an emergent non-linear control on marine populations, preventing them from outbursts at high density, and protecting them at low densities. This would be a major contribution to their resilience and a crucial process of ecosystems dynamics. Eventually, it would explain why auto-organized grouping is so universally generalized in aquatic ecosystems, and why extremely high fecundity life histories are so common in the sea, despite their notorious propensity to destabilize populations.

 

Collaborations: O. Maury (IRD), P. Verley (IRD), J-C Poggiale (UAM), C. Accolla (PhD candidate).

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