Noise-induced schooling of fish

Jitesh Jhawar, Richard G. Morris, U. R. Amith-kumar, M. Danny Raj, Tim Rogers, Harikrishnan Rajendran, Vishwesha Guttal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (SciVal)
67 Downloads (Pure)


We report on the dynamics of collective alignment in groups of the cichlid fish Etroplus suratensis. Focusing on small- to intermediate-sized groups (10 ≲ N ≲ 100), we demonstrate that schooling (highly polarized and coherent motion) is noise induced, arising from the intrinsic stochasticity associated with finite numbers of interacting fish. The fewer the fish, the greater the (multiplicative) noise and therefore the greater the likelihood of alignment. Such rare empirical evidence tightly constrains the possible underlying interactions that govern fish alignment, suggesting that E. suratensis either spontaneously change their direction or copy the direction of another fish, without any local averaging (the otherwise canonical mechanism of collective alignment). Our study therefore highlights the importance of stochasticity in behavioural inference. Furthermore, rather than simply obscuring otherwise deterministic dynamics, noise can be fundamental to the characterization of emergent collective behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-493
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number4
Early online date2 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Noise-induced schooling of fish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this