The ocean holds no shortage of strange and beautiful creatures, from the colorful animals that dwell in the shallowest tide-pools to the alien-looking species that lurk in the shadowy depths -- and, indeed, everywhere in between. But even the most common fish, the likes of which can be found packed in a can at your local grocery store, also have the power to inspire and mesmerize those who choose to see them as something more than merely a meal.This giant school of sardines was filmed by a dive center in the Philippines. The tiny silver fish, hundreds-of-thousand strong, dance and sway in one sparkling cloud. For a moment it seems like the divers are cosmonauts in some ethereal corner of space -- but such is the wonder found much closer to home.
This really should be watched in HD for the full effect.
Sardines have been prized for centuries as a source of food, but economies and cultures throughout the world depended on the fish for other uses as well, like to make varnish and lamp oil. In time, while most people knew what sardines were, few ever had the chance to see them outside the can they came neatly packed in. It wasn't until the development of Scuba and underwater filming that folks could appreciate their beauty in the wild, too.
Perhaps the most striking thing about sardines is there talent at synchronized swimming, an ability made possible by delicate sensors that can detect the slightest change in direction from their companions -- and it's a good skill to have. Fish traveling in schools gain protection in numbers, and it makes finding food easier when everyone is looking. Most fish school for at least part of their lives for these reasons, but for sardines, it's a lifelong commitment.
Unlike other sea-life that we eat, much of which is threatened from over-fishing, sardines have managed to maintain a healthy population despite our enjoyment of them. Fishermen in the U.S., for example, are allowed to catch some 80,000 tons each year, a haul deemed 'sustainable' by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch green list.
It's nice to know that these tiny swimmers should be around for future generations to enjoy, for the undersea dance would certainly be a bit less dazzling without them.
More on Sardines
Food Trend Alert: Sardines Make a Serious Comeback Amongst Environmentalists, Health Nuts, and Foodies
On Giving Up Salmon for Sardines
5 Reasons to Ditch Big Fish and Eat Sardines