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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Moving Right Along

In the U.S., autumn can be an enjoyable season, with its comfortable weather and festive, bright orange pumpkins aplenty. But for animals that prefer warmer climates, cooler temperatures mean it’s time to move on to their seasonal homes!

Most of us have seen birds flying to their winter abodes, but there’s a lot of action happening under the sea, too. Many underwater residents also migrate, some due to seasonal temperature changes, others to take advantage of breeding opportunities. In fact, some ocean dwellers travel thousands of miles to meet their ideal mate or to locate the warmest sand for nesting. Here are some hard-working animals that really put forth 110% to succeed in their migration endeavors.

North Pacific Grey Whale
Among mammals, the North Pacific Grey Whale holds the record for the longest migration. At a confirmed 12,400 miles round trip, its route is the longest of any marine creature migration. Their journey starts in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and ends in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Their migration provides viewing opportunities both on and off shore in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Once in colder seas, the opportunistic Grey Whales plow through the bottom mud and strain it through flexible baleen plates, eating tiny, shrimp-like creatures and tube worms. The whales fatten up each summer in preparation for the return journey south.

Another mammal with a considerable migration is the Orca. Unlike the usual motivations of food or mating, some Orca groups off the coasts of Antarctica travel 6,200 miles to the tropics to shed their outer layer of skin in the safety of warmer waters. One satellite tracking study has shown that Orca in the Canadian Arctic also undertake long-distance movement, likely to avoid heavy ice formations in the winter.

Leatherback Turtle 
Leatherback sea turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on earth. Traveling between foraging grounds in search of jellyfish, the turtles can go as far as 10,000 miles or more each year.
Instead of the usual north-south migrations, the Leatherback sea turtle in the Pacific travels east to west. Using a tracking device, a confirmed trip of 12,744 miles has been recorded for a female migrating from Indonesia to Oregon… to lay her eggs in the sand!

Most sea turtles migrate between foraging and nesting grounds, and seasonally to warmer waters. With satellite telemetry, scientists can track the movements of sea turtles between areas and even across entire oceans.

The Leatherback has a light pink spot on the top of its head directly above its brain. It is thought that this allows light to reach the pineal gland, which may be used for migration. The pineal gland is an endocrine gland found in vertebrates, which affects wake/sleep patterns and functions to signal day length.

Northern Elephant Seal
Following roughly the same route as the Grey Whale, the Northern Elephant Seal racks up an estimated 13,000 miles. Keep in mind, though, that this marine creature takes on a double migration- traveling twice a year- once to give birth and mate, and another time to shed their outer skin and fur in a process called molting. They have a complex scheduling system with different age groups and sexes utilizing beach space sequentially. Space can be a limiting resource for this animal as their population is approximately 150,000.

Blue Marlin
The Blue Marlin is a highly migratory species, with individuals migrating across entire ocean basins and even between oceans. That’s quite a distance to swim, just to stay warm!

Less is known about fish migrations than other sea life, but a tagged Blue Marlin has been recorded as migrating 9,254 miles from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Further research may discover longer journeys by this or other ocean fish.

Hammerhead Shark
Hammerheads exhibit philopatric behavior, meaning that they make return migrations after departing a particular area in search of mates or food. Additionally, they reside in specific locations and they show site fidelity in returning to the same areas repeatedly even over a number of years.

A recent study on Hammerhead migration was led by scientists from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). Using satellite tag technology, researchers were able to track a Hammerhead for 62 days and discovered its lengthy 745-mile journey from the coast of South Florida to the middle of the Atlantic off the coast of New Jersey.

Studies on Hammerhead migration provide vital information on how these endangered animals are affected by overfishing and environmental issues. Dr. Tristan Guttridge, who led a study at the Bimini Biological Research Station, in the Bahamas, explains why this is so vital: "Knowing when the animals are likely to be in certain places will be critical in developing effective management strategies" he said. "For example, our data could be used to create so-called 'time-area closures', where certain areas are closed to particular activities, like fishing, at different times. The aim would be to reduce harmful interactions with the sharks."

Have you observed a sea life migration? Share your experience below!

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fall for Autumn Boating

Although the evenings are getting cooler and the days shorter, it’s not too late to enjoy time out on the water. While one might hesitate to jump into a chilling lake or hang out by the pool with a frozen beverage, fall can be the ideal time for boating. In fact, boating in the fall has some serious advantages!

autumn  ride on a funcat electric boat

Take in the Colors and Critters
There is nothing more beautiful than watching autumn leaves turn vibrant hues along a coastline. Leaf peeping from your boat along a colorful shore gives you a unique perspective on the season. Fall also brings different wildlife to coastal areas – from waterfowl and migrating birds to bears preparing for a winter nap. Depending on your location, there can be a completely different scene than what you’d observe in the summer months.

“Leaf” the Crowds Behind
Once the school year begins, traffic changes can be dramatic, both on roadways and waterways. You’ll have less wait times at launch sites, shorter lines at fuel docks, and more open space to enjoy. Gone are the hour-long queue lines and parking nightmares.  In many areas, fees are also reduced or may even be non-existent. You might find fewer services available when high season ends, but a little planning ahead of time will ensure you have a comfortable, crowd-free experience.

fall boating on a funcat catamaran

Staying Out of the Hot Seat
The summer’s scorching rays and high temperatures can make boating miserable. Of course, a bimini top is an easy way to ensure you've got some sun protection, but that doesn’t save you from becoming overheated. The cooler conditions of autumn can provide a pleasant boating experience. Fill up your thermos with your favorite hot beverage, don a comfy sweatshirt, and off you go on a cool escape.

Fishing Fun
Lakes turn over when the surface is cooler, making fall fine for fishing. The churn puts trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, and other fish on high alert. They eat to store extra calories before they spend the winter in the water’s depths, and if you pull your boat early you’ll miss some of the hottest fishing action of the year. If you have a shallow-draft boat, you have access to the edges of lakes and rivers where fish feed before the winter.

Keeping it Safe
While autumn boating has many benefits, safety should still remain at the forefront. A reduction in temperatures does not mean that you are safe from damaging sunrays that can reflect off the water, so sunblock is still an important accessory. It’s also important to keep an eye to the sky. Autumn storms can approach fast and unexpectedly, and they often pack more of a punch than summer showers. Not only should you check the weather before heading out, but be sure to check the weather during your trip and keep an eye out for approaching fronts. Conditions can change quickly.

And, while less water traffic can be appealing, it does not ensure an accident-free boating experience, so life jackets should still be part of your plan. In fact, plummeting water temperatures can increase the chances of hypothermia if an accident occurs. Compared to the busier times of the season, there may not be other boaters in your vicinity to turn to for help at this time of year. So, before you leave, make sure cell phones are charged and radio signals are working properly.

If you haven’t taken advantage of the many opportunities that fall boating affords, get out on the water and experience the serenity and beauty unique to this time of year. If you’re a “seasoned” autumn boater, share your favorite fall boating story below!

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Seriously Creepy Creatures of the Deep

Fall is here, and with it comes striking autumn colors, cooler weather and all things pumpkin flavored! In the U.S., kids and kids at heart start planning their costumes for Halloween, and homes are adorned with scary skeletons and bright orange décor.

But 24/7 and 365 days per year, there are creatures living in the depths of our oceans that put our attempts at a spooky celebration to shame. The appearance of some of these very unique ocean dwellers could send a shutter down the spines of even diehard haunted house lovers. Here are some unique critters living in the deep sea!

Sarcastic Fringehead
Looking like something out of a horror movie from the 1980s, the Sarcastic Fringehead is a foot-long fish that lives off the Pacific Coast of North America. When unthreatened, the Fringehead is not that menacing. But if a marine predator (or stray human hand) attempts to dislodge a Fringehead from its home, the fish will race into action, brandishing its frightening predator-like teeth.

At the first sign of danger, Fringeheads employ their enormous mouths and needlelike teeth for defense. Initially, they emit only a warning, which is accomplished by the flexing and snapping of their jaws. Fringeheads do not typically attack humans, but we suggest keeping your fingers out of their personal space. Check out the Sarcastic Fringehead on video!

black dragon fish

Black Dragonfish
Another 80’s horror flick throwback, the Black Dragonfish resembles the monsters from the Alien movies.  Fortunately, you really don’t have much to fear from the Black Dragonfish due to their diminutive size. The females are some 15 inches long (40 cm). That may sound like a fairly good size, but a lot of that length comes from their long, tail-like structure. Their mouths, by comparison, are rather little. They do possess long fangs, utilized for catching other fish.

Black Dragonfish can produce their own light, which is handy since they reside in the black recesses of the ocean. You can find these tiny terrors more than a mile beneath the waters (2,000 meters). Unlike most bioluminescent predators, the Black Dragonfish glows and can see its own light.

Common Fangtooth

Common Fangtooth
Aptly named, Fangtooths have mouths that are full of long, pointy teeth, which are perfect for catching and trapping prey of just about any size. Common Fangtooth are deep-sea predators that have been recorded at depths of over 16,000 feet (4877 m)!

Though they spend most of their time in the deep, Common Fangtooth are known to migrate toward the surface at night, following their preferred prey of crustaceans and other fishes. Common Fangtooth are more active than many other deep-sea fishes and seek out food, rather than lying in wait.

Common Fangtooth do not have light producing organs or cells for communication, or to attract prey. Instead, they rely heavily on their sense of smell and benefit from even the slightest bit of sunlight that may make it down to the depths.

Although the Fangtooth appears menacing, they are actually quite small. The maximum length of a Fangtooth is a mere six inches (15 cm).

Frilled Shark

Frilled Shark
Sometimes called a “living fossil” because it hasn’t changed much since prehistoric times, the eel-like Frilled Shark is rarely seen by humans… and we should be very relieved!

The Frilled Shark’s mouth is as terrifying as that of a Great White. It’s lined with 25 rows of backward-facing, trident-shaped teeth—300 in all. The Frilled Shark’s mouth looks larger than that of other sharks because its jaws terminate at the back of the fish's head instead of underneath the skull.

The Frilled Shark has red frilled gills, with the initial gill slit across the throat, as if it were cut with a knife. Watch the creepy Frilled Shark here!

Goblin Shark

Goblin Shark
Not so pretty in pink, the Goblin Shark does not get its color from pink pigments in its skin. In fact, this shark has a translucent dermis (skin) that enables us to see the oxygenated blood within its capillaries. Its snout and tooth structure are just as unique. An overhanging, tremendously elongated yet flattened snout forms a blade-like appearance. The Goblin Shark’s long, slender, exceptionally sharp fang-like teeth are connected to its protruding jaw. To make matters even more intricate, the snouts of these sharks are sprinkled with tiny receptors that pick up electric fields.

One of the most interesting features of this shark is the way it bites its food source. Its mouth actually extends outward from its body and can move independently. Watch the Goblin Shark in action!


One of the most unusual-looking creatures of the sea, the Viperfish is a fierce predator. It’s easily recognized by its large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth. In fact, the fangs are so large that they often exceed its mouth size. Instead, they curve back very close to the fish’s eyes. The Viperfish uses these sharp teeth to impale its prey while swimming at it at high speeds.

Accompanying this outlandish dental structure, the Viperfish also possesses an elongated dorsal spine that is tipped with a light-producing organ. Viperfish can flash the light on and off, utilizing it like a lure.

Viperfish hunt in the darkness. They have been observed hanging motionless in the water, waving their “lures” overhead. The have a hinged skull, which can be rotated upward, allowing them to swallow unusually large victims. Check out this video featuring the Viperfish.

Vampire Squid

Vampire Squid
With a scientific name that means "the vampire squid from hell," you'd expect the Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) to be a fearsome predator terrorizing the deep. Despite its demonic look, that isn't the case; instead, the Vampire Squid collects and consumes drifting particles. It uses eight “arms” and two long, sticky filaments to grab its food.

The body composition of the Vampire Squid is similar to that of a jellyfish. They have the largest eye-to-body ratio of any animal in the world.

Black Swallower

Black Swallower
Capable of swallowing prey twice its size in a single bite, the Black Swallower creeps up behind its prey, trapping its meal by the tail in its sharp, interlocking teeth. The Swallower then coils the prey into its expanding stomach, and sets off in search of its next victim. The Swallower’s bloated and stretched stomach extends so far down in fact, that the stomach tissue becomes transparent.

Atlantic Wolffish

Atlantic Wolffish
Last but certainly not least on our list, is the Atlantic Wolffish. Atlantic Wolffish are vicious predators. Their eel-like bodies, large teeth, big heads and powerful jaws are used to eat hard-bodied prey such as sea urchins, crabs and snails. Like eels, they favor rocky ocean bottoms and seaweed beds where they can hide. These solitary fish grow up to five feet long (1.5 m) and can weigh an astounding 40 pounds (18 kg). Wolffish have a unique, natural antifreeze in their bodies, which keeps their blood moving fluidly in their very cold habitat.

The Atlantic Wolffish is listed as “special concern” under the Species at Risk Act, and are not often seen by humans. However, if you happen to encounter one, or manage to reel one in while fishing, watch out: "When hauled out of the water [the Wolffish] snaps like a bulldog and with good aim at anything in its way… hands, an oar, or at other fish among which it is thrown, and it can inflict a serious bite," reports the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which adds that they've received reports of Wolffish swimming in shallower rocky waters and making a "furious attack" on people wading there. YIKES!

What is your favorite creepy creature? Tell us about it below!
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

9th Annual Reef Alliance Day

Saturday, September 15th was the 9th Annual Reef Alliance Day, held in conjunction with Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers from all over the world came together for a unified cause: cleaning up our oceans, beaches, reefs and waterways.

Overseeing the Cleanup

Last year, Ocean Conservancy reported that 500,000 volunteers cleaned nearly 15,000 miles of land and waterways and removed more than 18 million pounds of trash and debris. The top 5 most collected items included: cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers and plastic grocery bags. And, would you believe that 56 toilets, 8 microwaves, 2 typewriters and 1 piano were also removed?!

This year, volunteers from Sub Sea Systems' office cleaned up Jenkinson Lake, a water reservoir in Northern California. The last time a Reef Alliance cleanup was held here was in 2015. That year, 24 volunteers cleaned up over 100 lbs. of trash, filling 6 large bags.

2015 Cleanup Crew

We’re pleased to report that the trash and debris were significantly less this time around, compared to the previous cleanup. 11 volunteers (and a couple of feathered "directors") collected 4 bags of trash, weighing approximately 60 lbs. The top items recovered, and those of greatest concern, included cigarette butts, glass pieces (from broken glass beverage bottles), and food wrappers. Overall, the lake’s shoreline was very clean and well-respected by its visitors.

Keenan and Tasha Recording Their "Finds"

Although we’d like to collect as much trash and debris as possible to feel like we had a successful cleanup, it’s always rewarding to see a popular waterway cleaner than it was in previous years!

A number of Sea TREK operators also hosted their own cleanup events this month. In the coming weeks we will select one of those operators as the annual Reef Alliance Award winner, granted in recognition of exceptional conservation efforts. Stay tuned!

A Successful Day!

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Friday, September 21, 2018

The World's Deepest Underwater Dance Floor

QUIZ: What’s 42 meters deep, filled with 4300 cubic meters of water, and includes a laser light show?

ANSWER: it’s the Desperados Deep House Dance Party, featuring Sea TREK!

Desperados, a Heineken brand of tequila-flavored beer, pushed the boundaries of wild experimentation in parties by turning the world’s deepest pool (Y-40 The Deep Joy) into a dance floor. Desperados is famous for hosting high-energy parties to promote its brand– in previous years they’ve hosted Skyfest, a hot air balloon electronic dance party and light show, and Bass Drop, a zero gravity music festival. This year, 400 fans convened in Venice, Italy, for the Deep House dance party and multi-sensory experience.

Submerged partygoers used Sea TREK diving helmets fitted with a sub aqua sound system to listen to live performances by DJs and musicians, as they danced underwater surrounded by a custom light show. Performer, Peggy Gou, an award-winning Berlin-based artist, said, “It was a unique experience to see people tearing up their own dance floors under the water to my music! It shows if you have the right mindset, the world is your dance floor.”

While the party was all about fun and frolic, many months of careful preparation were required to ensure the success of the event. Sub Sea Systems’ team worked closely with Jack Morton, experiential marketing gurus and creative visionary behind the Deep House Dance Party, to organize the helmet diving aspect of the event. During the course of the planning, Sea TREK representatives made two visits to the Y-40 venue in Italy for testing; while Sea TREK Spain hosted a group of individuals from Jack Morton and Heineken in Gran Canaria, Spain for a day of VIP Sea TREKking.

Sub Sea Systems provided 10 Sea TREK helmets and 1 demonstration helmet for the event, as well as hoses, regulators, a custom manifold, and more! Team members soon followed, including: Jim, Kyle and Keenan Mayfield, along with Filiberto Medina (Spain & Europe Representative), and Ad van Tuijl (Regional Director, EMEA & Russia). Once there, they set up Sea TREK, trained Y-40 diving staff, and managed practice dives before the even commenced.

“This was an insane event,” shared Kyle Mayfield, Sea TREK Director of Production, “Of the Sea TREK programs and projects that I have been part of, this Desperados promo was by far the craziest. I’d like to recognize the Sub Sea and Y-40 staff for their extreme attention to safety– over the course of 4 high energy days full of training dives, rehearsal dives and event dives, and an excess of 150 guests, we had no incidents or issues. For the participants, who had limited to no dive experience, nor knowledge of just what was to take place, this was a smashing success and something that will be difficult to exceed. From the music pumping both above and below surface, to the laser light show, to the underwater dancers and entertainment, to the exuberance of the guests as they exited the water…it was just amazing! I’m grateful to have been a part of such a memorable event. It just leaves me wondering, what will Sea TREK be involved in next?!”

Keenan added, “This event can only be described as one massive success. From the production side, I have never worked with such a talented group of individuals. This was truly a team effort, and we couldn't be prouder to have been a part of it. Desperados Deep House was a truly one-of-a-kind immersive, interactive adventure. The underwater guest experience and overall insanity this event brought will be truly difficult to exceed.”

Sub Sea Systems is grateful for the opportunity to participate in this event, and proud to have made history with the World’s deepest underwater dance party!

Check out the video of Desperados Deep House Dance Party below!

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Show Our Oceans Some Love

Suit Up to Clean Up

Have you ever walked along a beautiful shoreline and discovered plastic at your feet? Sadly, the problem goes much deeper than what you’re seeing on the beach. Scientists estimate that more than 8 million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans every year. If we don’t act now, there could be a pound of plastic for every 3 pounds of fish in the ocean within the next decade!

great pacific garbage patch plastic trash

So, how much trash are we talking? The (sadly) well-known Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, located between Hawaii and California, is a prime example of how plastics and trash can build at alarming rates. The Patch is estimated to weigh approximately 80,000 tons. This weight is equivalent to that of 500 Jumbo Jets.

Not only is trash unsightly, it causes irreparable damage to our waterways, harms coral and other sea life, affects human health, and disturbs economies.

turtle in plastic

Effects of Ocean Trash

Trash in the water and on the shore can have lethal consequences. Marine species often get tangled in debris, from fishing nets to six-pack rings. If they get caught, they could get injured or even die. Even if they do not get entangled, many animals mistake plastic debris for food, and eat it. This fills their stomachs with junk they can’t digest.

Citing the harmful impact of marine debris, the United Nations Environment Programme’s research states that 270 species of marine life worldwide are affected by entanglement in or ingestion of marine trash, including 86 percent of all sea turtles species, 44 percent of all seabird species and 43 percent of all marine mammal species.

Debris can also damage important habitats, like coral reefs, by breaking or smothering them. Corals serve as the base of the marine ecosystem. Chemical-riddled plastics are ingested by fish, then we consume those fish, transferring the plastics and chemicals into our bodies. It has been reported that the average seafood consumer in the UK will ingest about 11,000 plastic particles every year!

Marine debris also hurts economies, since people do not want to visit or live near dirty beaches. A South African study concluded that 10 pieces of marine debris per meter of beach would deter 40 percent of foreign tourists, while another study in New Jersey, USA estimated that the state lost billions of dollars in tourism revenue as a result of marine debris washing ashore. Who wants to walk along a beach full of straws and plastic bottles?  Boats and ships can run into large pieces of debris, too, and get their propellers tangled.

Coastal Cleanup

What You Can Do

Grab your friends and family, and “Suit Up to Clean Up” during the annual coastal cleanup on September 15th! The International Coastal Cleanup is sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, which started this annual endeavor more than 30 years ago. The Cleanup has grown immensely since its inception. Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries come together each year to participate in a cleanup event near them. Sub Sea Systems and its Sea TREK locations support this effort through Reef Alliance. Sea TREK operators organize and/or participate in cleanup events, and document the trash collected for submittal to Ocean Conservancy. The Sea TREK operator that puts on the best cleanup event is considered for the annual Reef Alliance Award.

You can join this year’s coastal cleanup by participating in an organized cleanup event near you, or by starting your own.

There’s hope for our oceans. By educating and empowering the public, we can stop trashing our waterways and start cleaning up the damage. For more details on the Conservancy’s 2018 Coastal Cleanup, go to:


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Thursday, September 6, 2018

School’s Back in Session!

Human parents everywhere breathed a sigh of relief this past month, as children headed back to their classrooms. With backpacks, pencils, and lunch bags in hand, kids trotted off to a new adventure, while parents enjoyed a daytime respite.

In honor of this special “season”, we thought we would visit schools of a different kind – schools that are always in session…. underwater!

schooling fish

What is a school of fish?

There are actually two types of fish aggregations, shoals and schools. A shoal is a looser group, sometimes consisting of different species that hang out together (often temporarily), but are disorganized. Schools are highly structured, with coordinated movements and a common direction. A group of fishes can switch from shoaling to schooling and back again.

Schooling fish are usually of the same species and the same age and size. Fish schools move with the individual members precisely spaced from each other! Who knew fish could do mathematics?

fish in a school

Why do fish school?

Schools protect fish from their enemies. It's the same rule our mothers taught us as kids- always stay in a group because there’s safety in numbers! Predators find it easier to chase down and eat fish swimming alone, rather than trying to extract 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 before facing an angry school of dozens or possibly hundreds of fish. And, when fish spawn a school ensures that at least some of their eggs will elude predators due to the sheer numbers produced. A school may seem harmonious, but there is a lot of competition for the safest spots in the center of the school, farther away from the teeth of predators.

Schooling also increases the odds of successful mating and reproduction. Many fish species gather in schools when they are in need of a mate, increasing breeding opportunities.

It is also believed that swimming close together reduces friction and allows fish to conserve energy while swimming. What a team!

school of yellow fish

Feeding Frenzy?

When lunchtime comes along, food is easier to find as a group. Having fifty sets of eyes and noses gives schooling fish a better chance of locating food. On the flip side, living in a large group means that there is more competition for food. Resources have to be stretched, and tensions can arise when food is scarce.

fish feeding frenzy

Educational Opportunities

Schooling fish learn from each other, and research* shows that when they’re taken out of their normal social group, individuals struggle to learn on their own. Scientists have long known that schooling fish observe and learn from each other’s failures and successes. Recently, some evidence has shown that schooling fish experience spatial learning. To test this theory, scientists divided a school of social cichlid fish into two categories: 14 social fish and 15 loners. Researchers kept the social fish grouped together while they partitioned the loners into single-fish isolation tanks. They ran both groups through a simple T-shaped maze, color-coding the side that harbored food—a yellow mark for food, a green mark for no food. Seven of the 14 socialized fish learned to associate yellow with food, whereas only three of the 15 isolated fish successfully made the same association. The research suggests that fish in a group setting are able to learn better and faster than their single counterparts.

* Resource: Science Magazine

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