Study: sharks have distinct, individual personalities

A new study hailing from Macquarie University's Department of Biological Sciences has found that sharks have individual personalities, and these personalities are consistent across various environments. Many animal species have been found to have individual, distinct personalities (consider your cat, for example); this study marks the first time such distinct individualities have been observed in sharks.

For the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Fish Biology, concerned itself with Port Jackson sharks, a type of nocturnal shark with a funny (read: non-scary) face and a presence south of Australia.

Researchers observed how sharks reacted in unknown environments, looking for consistent markers that indicate a specific individual personality. To do this, sharks were put in a tank that contained a shelter; researchers watched and noted how long it took the shark to come out the box and explore the tank. Following this, the sharks were stressed via handling, then released and observed to see their recovery times from that stress.

These behavior tests were repeated multiple times and the sharks' individual reactions were noted each time. The researchers found that behavior among the sharks was consistent on the individual level, something that indicates a personality much in the same way someone's dog will react to strangers or storms consistently over long periods.

The study concludes:

These results demonstrate the presence of individual personality differences in sharks for the first time. Understanding how personality influences variation in elasmobranch behaviour such as prey choice, habitat use and activity levels is critical to better managing these top predators which play important ecological roles in marine ecosystems.