Chorus Line Hypothesis

In my mind murmuration is one of nature’s greatest pageants. Undulating spasms of reckless harmony never fails to take my breath away. Erupting effortlessly, exuding exquisite order and purpose, a murmuration of Starlings begs consideration.

Beyond recognition of defensive advantages, the mechanics of murmuration remained elusive until 1984. That year zoologist Wayne Potts published his murmuration hypothesis in the journal Nature. Using high speed film and frame by frame analysis, Potts detailed the “Chorus Line” effect.

He said -“birds are like dancers who see an approaching leg kick when it’s still down the line, and anticipate what to do.”

Birds don’t respond to immediate neighbors, instead they anticipate and react to movement down the line Flying into, rather than away from the flock kick starts the kerfuffle. After that, split second reflex accounts for dizzying speed and flash mob contortions.

4 thoughts on “Chorus Line Hypothesis

  1. I guess I didn’t know there was a word for it. But I’ve stopped to stare so many times I can’t remember! However we account for critters reaching the state of being in which we observe them (creationism or evolution) I am always humbled by their functionality or design — depending on what we call it. Love the video.
    Recently I was looking at data about birds that cooperatively sleep with varying parts of their brain turned off depending on where they were sleeping in relation to other birds. The surrounding areas that were more in line with other birds were monitored by those birds and the part of their brain / eyes that monitored those areas could rest. Different birds resting different portions of their brain all at the same time. Fascinating.

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