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Do you enjoy hanging out with other people? Then you are social. That’s not the case for all people. Some like to be off on their own. They may be called anti-social, or not social.

Turns out, according to a recent study, that some bluegill — a small fish — are also more social than others. Even though fish often live with groups of other fish, called schools, some are more social than others.

This study showed that those social fish are more likely to be caught by anglers. They figured this out by marking a group of fish, putting them in a pond, and then fishing. The marked fish were the only ones in the pond. Each fish the anglers caught they wrote down its number and released it. Sounds like a fun study, right?

After five days of fishing they captured all of the fish and took them back to the laboratory. In a fish tank with a clear divider, they put the social fish on one side and a group of other fish on the opposite side. The social fish — the ones that had been caught — hung out at the glass divider more than fish that hadn’t been caught by the anglers.

The scientists thought maybe the fish that had been caught were more aggressive. So they put those fish in a tank with others and found that one fish would take charge of the tank and drive the other fish into the corners. That aggressive fish was never one of the fish that had been caught.

"Broadly speaking, for animals living in groups, social individuals are really important,” said Cory Suski, associate professor at the University of Illinois and co-author on the study. “They help spot predators, find prey, and transmit information about these things to the rest of the group."

So if the social fish are more likely to be caught, how will that affect the rest of the fish in the group? The scientists aren’t sure, but it seems like for anglers the fishing wouldn’t be as good unless they always catch and release their fish.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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