Photo: Striped shoal, zebrafish. Eötvös University

Wall Street Underwater

Seeing mathematical patterns shared by humans and zebrafish

Finding similarities between human and animal behaviour isn’t difficult, as many areas of human activity, from social instincts to mating rituals, have clear parallels in the natural world. It’s unusual, however, for scientists to employ a mathematical model from the human sphere to analyse behaviour in the animal kingdom.

Zebrafish – so named, of course, for their own pattern resemblance to zebras – are frequently used as stand-ins for humans in social-behaviour experiments because of their genetic similarity. A team of mechanical engineers mapping the fish's movements noted that their motion didn’t follow an established pattern so much as a series of alternating drifts and sharp turns – uncannily reminiscent of the minor shifts and sudden dips that characterise the movements of stock market data over time.

Photo: the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange as seen in James Allen Smith’s Floored. Trader Film