Across the lower-latitude shores of Nereus grow expansive forests of kelp-like seaweed known as waterfleece. Anchored to the sea floor of the continental shelf, they stretch to the surface, their long lengths bobbing and swaying; casting the ocean swells in a bright golden sheen. And flitting about these copses of nereophytes are vast schools of aquatic herbivores known as goldwave. These Nereid fish are highly adapted to living among the waterfleece, not only relying on them as a chief form of sustenance, but using them for camouflage as well.
Goldwave swim in schools that are largely made up of a single generation. The goldwave are born together, swim, eat, and mate together, and potentially even die together if driven too far from a food source. If two schools encounter one another they will intermingle, often forming a new, much larger school. Populations of millions have been recorded. And while such a large collection of fish might seem a smorgasbord to predators, the goldwave have developed several adaptations that help them avoid conflict with the larger and the hungry.
First, the body of the goldwave closely resembles the bright color and three-pronged shape of a single waterfleece leaf (or 'blade'). So even as it is chewing on a plant with its rasping, nearly jawless mouth, it blends in with the larger plant, letting the natural currents of the ocean draw it back and forth as it would the blade it is eating. If an astute predator
Length: Up to 1 m long
spots it, however, the goldwave will dart from its hiding and feeding place, signaling to others around it to do the same. The predator is quickly confused by the explosion of life, and can easily lose its intended victim. Goldwave have even been documented swimming in formations similar in shape to the overall waterfleece plant, stacking themselves from surface to seabed and swaying in the water; an effort to further confound predators, who have no interest in a vegetative meal.