Killifish - small, brightly
coloured fish found in lakes and streams in Africa. These are very popular
as aquarium fish and are reared all over the world by tropical aquarists.
In the wild, something amazing happens in their lifecycle. Many of the lakes the killifish live in are seasonal and rainfed - they have no rivers or streams feeding them and they dry up in the harsh African summer. As the water starts drying up, the killifish lay their eggs in the slush. Then, as the lakes dry up, they die. Their bodies become mere husks in the sun, and they fall into the cracks of the parched expanse that the lakebed becomes.
The eggs though, are tough customers, and remain alive through the summer. They are buried in the slush, which keeps them safe from any damage. And once the rains arrive and the lake fills up, these eggs hatch, releasing juvenile killifish into the lifegiving waters.
In the meantime, the
role of their parents has not ended.
Their dried bodies, which lie trapped in the cracks in the earth, dissolve in the water, becoming food for protozoa, which in turn make a nourishing meal for the juvenile killifish. And soon, the lake is stocked with colourful killifish.
As no doubt thousands of people have said before, the circle of life is complete, with death seeding life, and life undoubtedly seeding death.
Does it take a lot of imagination to see ourselves, our institutions and our practices as killifish?
I don't think so.