By Celia Coates
As I read a short article in NEW SCIENTIST Magazine called “A crab, a shrimp and a fish go into a burrow…” a little movie formed in my imagination and I was charmed. Science doesn’t usually do “charming” but here is that story –
Researcher Alexandra Hiller of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Apartado, Panama and her colleagues were studying strategies used by small prey on coral reefs to avoid their predators. They had already seen that some species of shrimp and fish work together for their mutual benefit such as when, “…the shrimp digs out a burrow and reinforces it with bits of shell and coral, and then takes in the fish as a lodger.” The fish gains a safe place to stay and the shrimp gains the fish’s better ability to see. Then the researchers found a rare burrow on an Indonesian reef with a third cooperating member – a porcelain crab. They have found six instances of this kind of cooperation so far.
Here’s the description that created my little film clip: These three,
“… typically exit the burrow together, in a chain – with the crab’s claw and antennae touching the shrimp’s body and the shrimp’s antennae nearly glued to the fish’s tail. If one spots a predator, it wouldn’t take long to pass on the message.”
All three can be protected by sharing their different strengths and compensating for their different weaknesses. More than charming, this is enviable. Can you imagine the human equivalent of this diversity and cooperation?
Humans ARE learning to find useful solutions from nature – it’s the new field called Biomimicry. This hopeful statement is from the jacket of a book titled BIOMIMICRY: Innovation Inspired by Nature,
“If chaos theory transformed our view of the universe, biomimicry is transforming the way we live on earth, literally enabling us to use the known world to create a New World. Biomimicry is the quest for innovation inspired by nature.”
The author of BIOMIMICRY, Janine M. Benyus, goes on to say,
“In a society accustomed to dominating or ‘improving’ nature, this respectful imitation is a radically new approach, a revolution really. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her.”
New ways to learn are certainly part of What Is Needed Now.