It's Not all Sharp Teeth And Feeding Frenzies: Sharks Have Personalities As Well

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Some sharks are gregarious and have strong social connections, others are more solitary and prefer to remain inconspicuous, according to a study which is the first to show the predators have personality traits.

Personalities are known to exist in many animals but are usually defined by individual characteristics such as how exploratory, bold or aggressive an individual is.

Research led by the University of Exeter and the Marine Biological Association of the UK has shown for the first time that individual sharks possess social personalities which determine how they might interact with group mates in the wild.

A study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, tested for personality by recording the social interactions of groups of juvenile small spotted catsharks in captivity under three different habitat types.

The species of shark, Scyliorhinus canicula, found throughout the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, group together by resting around and on top of one another on the bottom of the sea floor.

Dr David Jacoby, a behavioural ecologist, says socially well-connected individuals remained well-connected under each new habitat.

“In other words, their social network positions were repeated through time and across different habitats,” he says.

“Well-connected individuals formed conspicuous groups, while less social individuals tended to camouflage alone, matching their skin colour with the colour of the gravel substrate in the bottom of the tank.”

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