Just Like Humans, Sharks Have Personalities Too

Just Like Humans, Sharks Have Personalities Too

   According to scientific research, sharks have personalities too. While some are sʜʏ and ꜰᴇᴀʀʟᴇss, others are bold risk-takers that do not hesitate to explore new territories.

Just like we humans do. Though media reports paint some species worse than others, sharks generally have a bad reputation. But, species like the Great White Shark (Carcharodon Carcharias) for example, have the ᴡᴏʀsᴛ of it. You’ll read phrases like “white ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ” in reference to these creatures but some divers have stumbled across these same great whites sharks in the open waters without incident. Whatever the case, the great white’s reputation as a ᴍᴇʀᴄɪʟᴇss and ʀᴜᴛʜʟᴇss ᴍᴀɴ-ᴇᴀᴛᴇʀ still persists. But the question remains, should an entire species of sharks be generalized in that way? Even if these friendly, fish-loving sharks are just a figment of some animators’ imaginations, though, some sharks really may be nicer than others, or whatever the shark equivalent of nice is: A new paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology offers the first evidence that sharks really do have distinct personalities.

This kind of behavioral analysis is not new among animals and it focuses on investigating “behavioral syndromes.” It’s been done on several other species of animals but Finger’s research seems to be the first recorded one on sharks. Individual lemon sharks have different degrees of sociability and novelty-seeking. “They are not machines, they have personality” – Jean Sebastien Finger. Apparently, the sharks that were more interested in novelty appeared less social, and vice versa. In his analysis, Finger suspects that those animals that have the safety of a group take fewer ʀɪsᴋs. But the novelty-seekers (risk takers) prefer to ᴠᴇɴᴛᴜʀᴇ off on their own and, although they were more prone to ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀ, they don’t have to share the food they find with the others. Just like how in the human world, the people we regard as risk-takers and game-changers aren’t always so good at working well with others.

Down the road, the study authors write, a better understanding of sharks’ personalities may help scientists learn more about what drives their choice of things like ᴘʀᴇʏ and habitat. Some sharks are sʜʏ, and some are outgoing; some are adventurous, and some prefer to stick close to what they know, information that could prove useful in making sense of larger species-wide behavior patterns. But unfortunately for ᴍɪsᴀᴅᴠᴇɴᴛᴜʀᴇ-ᴘʀᴏɴᴇ clown fish everywhere, all of them, save for a handful of animated Disney exceptions, still see fish as food, not friends.

Based on these behavioral differences, the researchers are sure that boldness isn’t a behavioral pattern common across all members of the same species. Instead, it varies from one individual shark to another. In their words, “some sharks are sʜʏ, and some are outgoing.” This may also explain why two sharks of the same species would meet a diver in the water and one would quickly swim off while another would come closer “for a better look.”

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