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Table of Contents
A cloud of fish hover over the protective branches of a thicket of Acropora coral on a Papua New Guinea reef. Individual fish appear as stationary objects captured at 1/125th of a second. In reality, the fish constantly change position within the cloud and the cloud itself expands and contracts with the common movements of the fish as they respond to their perceptions. A biologically accurate representation of the system would show the trajectories of individual fish weaving upward like a web of tubular branches. The pattern would be more complex, but similar to the pattern made by the coral branches as they rise into the sea to find planktonic food.
The resulting dome-shaped cloud is a communication web; a living system reacting as a whole entity. This being hovers over the coral during the day or collapses into the branches at night or when danger threatens.
When Frederique approaches, the nearest fish move into the protection of the coral branches, distorting the form of the communication web.
Communication webs exist as the interchange of information between selves in a community and between selves and their environment. The cloud shape is a result of intercommunications between the coral, plankton, predators, and a wide variety of physical conditions.
Symbiosis in the Blue Lagoon, New Caledonia in New Caledonia
Communication webs last longer than the individuals in them. The cloud retains its shape and behavior although individual fish change position within it, die, and are replaced by new fish of the same species. A fish school of a particular species probably lasts 40 or even 1000 years, moving from one coral head to another as they blossom and die on the reef. Populations of communications webs inhabit the reefs and seen as species of behavior, they have lasted for millions of years, slowly changing in their form and function, learning new pathways in the sea.
Communication webs react and move more slowly than individual fish. A fish recognizes an approaching diver in a fraction of a second but it may take a thousand times longer for the stimulus to spread to the whole communication web and change the shape of the cloud of swimming fish.