What do you call a group of... sardines? | Global Ideas | DW | 12.02.2015
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Global Ideas

What do you call a group of... sardines?

A family. Sounds endearingly cozy, and calls to mind images of paternally minded fish à la Nemo's dad. But the reality of the sardine family is rather more sprawling than snuggly.

Silver sardines fill the image

What's small, silver and spends its whole life looking for food?

Originally named after the island of Sardinia in whose waters they were once found in abundance, sardines actually swim in schools, grouping together in vast numbers when they perceive a threat in their midst.

From May to July, certain species take part in what is known as the sardine run. This biological spectacle sees billions of these small silvery fish migrate north to the cooler waters of the Agulhas Bank before moving up along the east coast of South Africa.

The mass shoals, which have been known to stretch up to fifteen kilometers in length, three and a half in width and can be as much as forty meters deep, have been likened in terms of biomass, to the great wildebeest migration of East Africa.

They attract hundreds of hunters as they swim north, with birds, sharks, whales, dolphins and game fish descending to take part in what becomes an annual feeding frenzy.

Sardines in blue sea, with the light pushing below the surface of the water

The Sardine Run is a natural phonomenon that occurs every summer

And those who don't fall prey to the prowess of their predators, may find themselves tucked up with a few other unlucky members of their family.

The sea was as smooth as a baby's top lip
Not even a policeman in sight
And the little sardines had got into their tins
And pulled down the lids for the night.
From "The Sailor's Farewell To His Horse." by Billy Bennett

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