The study shows sharks react differently to situations and make individual choices showing that they aren't just 'mindless machines'
Scientists have discovered unique individual personality traits in sharks by observing the way in which they react to environments and stressors.
The research carried out in Australia by a team at Macquarie University, looked at Port Jackson sharks – a species found in the south coast of the country. A team of investigators introduced a number of the sharks to a new environment and observed how they dealt with the new habitat by how quickly they navigated the foreign area and how they recover from stress by looking at levels of stress hormones.
Each shark was tested several times to observe consistent behavior and they found that some of the sharks acted much bolder than others in each situation and managing their stress more effectively.
According to UPI, “in humans our personality defines who we are and how we are likely to respond to certain situations. If you know someone well enough, it is possible to predict how they will likely respond in given situations. That is, their behaviour tends to demonstrate repetition over time or in similar situations. It is this behavioural stability and predictability that defines personality.”
The results are promising for the public image and perception of the shark that is often thought of as a killing machine. But these results show that sharks really do have individual personality traits that center around activity levels, habitat choice and what prey they prefer.
“Our results raise a number of questions about individual variation in the behaviour of top predators and the ecological and management implications this may have. If each shark is an individual and doing its own thing, then clearly managing shark populations is much more complicated than we previously thought,” said author and associate professor, Culum Brown. “Understanding how personality influences variation in shark behaviour – such as prey choice, habitat use and activity levels – is critical to better managing these top predators that play important ecological roles in marine ecosystems.”
The findings were published in Journal of Fish Biology.