Despite their reputation, not all sharks are fearless predators.
Just like humans, sharks also have different personalities and their personalities can be determined through their reactions, according to a new research. In humans, personalities are likely assessed the way they respond to certain situations. Repetition of same reaction in given situations reflects a personality and determines an overall impression.
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The same is the case with sharks. They tend to respond differently in certain situations, illustrating the fact that the concept of individual personality is no longer limited to humans. “Over the past few decades, personality research has shown that nearly 200 species of animals demonstrate individual personality. Personality is no longer considered a strictly human characteristic, rather it is a characteristic deeply engrained in our evolutionary past.” Lead researcher Evan Byrnes from Macquarie University said.
To look at shark varying personalities, researchers placed a group of Port Jackson’s shark in different scenarios and observed how they would react to those unfamiliar environments and stress. Port Jackson sharks, a type of bullhead sharks, live in the waters around southern Australia. These sharks are known for their large, blunt heads and distinctive harness-like markings on their body. The trials were predominantly intended to test the risk-taking abilities of Port Jackson sharks.
Therefore, researchers put 17 individual sharks into tanks and timed how long it took before the sharks would emerge from shelter into new environment. Then, researchers observed their stress handling ability by releasing them again into the waters and saw how quickly they recovered. Researchers found that each shark behaved in a distinct way and their responses were consistent during both trails. Some sharks were braver than others as they were fast to react in given situations, suggesting their boldness was the part of their personality not just the matter of opportunity.
Researchers also noted that those who were fast to emerge in the first trial were also the most active in the second trail. Sharks that badly handled stressful situation did the same in other trial too. “We are excited about these results because they demonstrate that sharks are not just mindless machines. Just like humans, each shark is an individual with its unique preferences and behaviors,” said co researcher professor Culum Brown.
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“Our a results raise a number of questions about individual variation in the behavior 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.”