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Life Lessons We Can Learn from Anchovies

Updated on January 3, 2011

If there comes a day when the darkness takes over and the world strips us bare, we can still learn. And really, there are things and people all around that having something to teach us. Things like, those little fish people sometimes put in Caesar salads and on top of what was once a perfectly good pizza. Yes, anchovies. We can learn some life lessons from these foul smelling and seemingly insignificant fishes.

What kind of lessons can we humans learn from anchovies? Well, although anchovies are near the bottom of the food chain, they can teach us how to eat well. They are by no means attractive, but they can teach us how to find a soul mate. There's no doubt they are weak, but they can still teach us about strength. And finally, they can provide insight into finding world peace.

On eating well

The anchovy is classified as a forage fish. These fish are typically small, but compensate for their size by forming schools. Anchovies swim together in schools for various reasons, one of them being, food. Swimming in a group increases their odds of successfully finding food. Similar to anchovies and all animals, we humans need food to survive. But unlike anchovies, majority of us aren’t out foraging for our food, especially not underwater. Instead, we put on a uniforms, go to offices, and work for green slips of paper in order to buy our food. We also work together.

Without working together - the producer and the consumer, the seller and the buyer, the giver and the receiver - society would not function. In regards to finding food (in our case, making money) and eating well, anchovies work together with their consanguineous friends, and similarly, so do we.

  • Whether it’s working with your fellow man, or swimming in a group, as long as it’s together, we can’t go wrong.

On finding a soul mate

Despite the unattractiveness, small-brains and googly eyes of the anchovy, they are masters in the game of sexual reproduction. The main reason for this, again, is swimming together in a group. Swimming in a group means increased access to potential mates, and in turn, less energy in securing one.

Similar to us humans, it’s much easier to find a mate among our peers ie. with friends at a bar rather than inside on the computer. When looking for a mate, the last thing you want to do is isolate yourself. For one, take Timothy McVeigh, the American ex-terrorist who had just two friends his whole life: his NRA membership card, and his rifle. Or two, Ted Kaczynski AKA the Unabomber, who went on a bomb-mailing spree for 20 years beginning in the early 70’s at the same time he decided to live as a recluse inside a remote cabin in the woods. Does isolation and lack of friends lead to this kind of insane behavior? Maybe so.

  • The anchovy who isolates himself from the school will find itself alone and at risk. If you segregate yourself from your peers and society, you might find yourself in the same position.

On emotional/financial support

By swimming together in large schools, anchovies are blessed with even more benefits. The hydrodynamic efficiency theory explains how anchovies save energy when swimming together in groups, the same way cyclists do when racing amongst the pack, or the way birds do when flying along in formation. When the anchovies at the front of the school become tired from leading, they drop back into the middle for support. When those on the periphery become weak from tirelessly scanning for predators, they drop into the middle for support.

  • As humans, we often become tired, vulnerable or simply need support. In these times, it’s a blessing to be able to drop back into the middle, and go to our family and friends for support.

On finding world peace

Is it possible these half-brained fish know the path to enlightenment? Do anchovies have the potential of awakening the people of the world and starting a revolutionary movement of peace? In my opinion, yes.

The way anchovies swim together in a school is an incredible display of cooperation in nature. As they swim, they instinctually follow their neighbor. Utilizing pressure signals to avoid collisions with their neighbor, they're able to take on various shapes while changing directions in unison. Anchovies swim together and relax into the sea their entire lives. But this isn't just for pleasure, it's crucial to their survival.

Although the anchovy’s predators are bigger, faster, and stronger, they are a difficult meal. The level of cooperation amongst a school of anchovies makes them hard to catch for three reasons: one, there is safety in numbers. Two, predators get confused trying to decide which individual anchovy to go after. And three, they have each other’s back. Through cooperation and trust in one another, the anchovy manages to continuously avoid predators and live a peaceful existence.

“Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace” Dwight D. Eisenhower once said. If we are supposedly smarter than this popular fishy snack, then why are we so often unable to cooperate and give consideration to our fellow man? Has history not shown us that fighting with force, in the end, only results in more fighting?

  • Just as the anchovy relies on cooperation to succeed and find peace in life, so must we. With a greater sense of community, increased cooperation, and love for our neighbors, the world can be a better, more peaceful place.

School of anchovies


Who knew there were so many important life lessons to learn from anchovies? Not the anchovies, that’s for certain. While it’s true anchovies don’t live neither long nor fulfilling lives, we as humans can still learn a thing or two from them. Not to mention, learning a thing or two from nature in general. If sticking together in schools and cooperating has helped anchovies find food, secure mates, seek support, and protect themselves from enemies for centuries, why can't it do the same for us? Maybe it’s time we all start acting more like smelly little anchovies.


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    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      dallas93444 - I want in... thanks for reading.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Think I'll organize "schools" of females... :-)

      Great article...

    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      Ingenira - Truly love when to receive comments on this hub. It's not selling anything or making me any money but I love to have people read/understand it like you have. Thanks for being here and thanks for the comment.

      FloBe - Don't thank me...thank you...

    • FloBe profile image

      Flo Belanger 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Just another lesson for us to learn from nature...thanks for the hub!

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      Awesome.... excellent analogy. There are truly so much we can learn from animals and living things... only if we can humble ourselves.

    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      kb24fanatic - thanks. glad you enjoyed

      deni edwards - judging by your photo i can see how you can relate. thanks for the comment...

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      I really enjoyed reading this. Nice one!

    • kb24fanatic profile image

      kb24fanatic 7 years ago from philippines

      Such a nice hub!