Within the icy depths

Story and photos by Scot Stewart

“The reason that fish form schools, birds form flocks, and bees form swarms is that they are smarter together than they would be apart. They don’t take a vote; they don’t take a poll: they form a system. They are all interactive and make a decision together in real time.” — Louis B. Rosenberg

It must seem a bit claustrophobic, living in a pond, lake or even in a stream pool in winter as the ice of winter etches its way across the water’s surface. The frozen seal, driven by spikes of ice crystals stretching across water gripped in subzero temperatures, locks everything below in for the season of cold. It doesn’t get any better as the ice thickens and gets topped with a blanket of snow, slowly, inevitably locking out more and more light, barring even the air above from sneaking into the water across most surfaces.

These cavernous conditions create a precarious habitat for the life within, be it plant, animal, protozoan, bacterial—it doesn’t matter. All are at the mercy of the water temperature, scarcity of food and a dwindling supply of oxygen.

Fish are ectothermic. They cannot set their body temperatures through metabolism at a fairly constant temperature. More specifically, scientists call them poikilotherms, their temperature is set by their surroundings, so their own…

To read the full story, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

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