Swarms as a system

Swarms can teach us a lot about living systems

February 6, 2011

Swarms are a staggering mystery to me.  Maybe also to you.  At once fascinating and befuddling, swarms of bees, ants, antelope, birds, fish, humans, viruses tell us something universal about life.  I recollect Annie Dillard‘s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and her chapter on “Fecundity.”  Swarms are like that – a pulsing, mind-boggling display of nature’s capacity to indulge in life.  In a systems view of things, we know that while the swarm announces an organism’s success, it also announces, within the food chain, that lunch is served:  in a predator-prey relationship, it’s important that swarms exist.

I have no doubt that any swarm captivates us, but this one in particular is absolutely riveting.  Listen to the narrative as the journalist tells us about how it forms and dissipates. Here it is, then, the starlings at Ot Moor.

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