Home Discoveries Sharks Join the Growing List of Intellectual Social Animals

Sharks Join the Growing List of Intellectual Social Animals

A team of scientists has been working to understand the cognitive abilities of sharks.

Sharks have always been regarded as solitary predators. However, recent experiments have proven otherwise. In fact, not only has it been proven that they can learn from one another, but it has also been discovered that sharks have the ability to discern quantity.

Sharks seen as solitary creatures are now considered social. Image source: Wikipedia

A small group of bamboo sharks were tested to see if they could recognize the difference in the quantity of objects. In a study conducted by Dr. Vera Schluessel from the University of Bonn in Germany, sharks were placed into individual training pools. Within each pool, pictures of over 40 different objects of varying geometric shapes and colors were projected onto the wall. The scientists found it important to include such a variety of objects to confirm that the sharks weren’t merely basing their decisions off of the area of the wall that was covered.

Only about half of the sharks, after being rewarded with food, were able to successfully pick out the pictures of the larger group of geometric objects. Schluessel and her group of colleagues believe that, like humans, sharks have intellectual differences and this is in large part why only half of them were able to succeed at the task. Sharks are now joining the list of other animals such as dogs, wolves, guppies, and bears who have also succeeded in differentiating between large groups and small ones.

However, it has also been determined that sharks are capable of learning cognitive skills from other sharks much like blackbirds learn from one another. There are several species of shark that are considered to be social learners. Just like the phrase “monkey see, monkey do,” sharks can learn by watching other sharks that have already been trained to perform a certain task. Often seen as solitary creatures, these experiments prove otherwise.

As it turns out, sharks aren’t all that different from us. Schluessel and her team have also discovered that bamboo sharks can decipher between pictures. The scientists at the University of Bonn are hoping to publish the findings of their shark experiment in the near future.

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