WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sharks have more complex social lives than previously known, according to a study that found that gray rock sharks in the Pacific Ocean cultivate surprising social networks with each other and develop bonds that can last for years.
Gray rock sharks, the subject of a study on social behavior among sharks, are seen in the Pacific Ocean around Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii in this undated photo published on August 12, 2020. Yannis Papastamatiou / Folder through REUTERS.
The research focused on the social behavior of 41 reef sharks around Palmeres Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii, using acoustic transmitters to find them and camera tags to gain greater clarity on interactions. Theirs.
Far from solitary beings, sharks formed social communities that remained fairly stable over time, with some of the same individuals remaining together over four years of study.
The researchers documented a daily pattern, with sharks spending mornings together in groups of sometimes close to 20 individuals in the same part of the reef, dispersing throughout the day and night, and returning again in the morning.
“Sharks are extraordinary animals and are still misunderstood,” said Yannis Papastamatiou, a marine biologist at the International University of Florida, lead author of the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
“I like to talk about ‘their secret social life’ not because they want it to be secret, but because only recently have we developed the tools to start seeing and understanding their social life,” Papastamatiou added. “Not all sharks are social and some are likely lonely.”
The rock shark is medium-sized, about 6 meters (2 meters) long. Her sociality bore similarities in terms of stability over time with some birds and mammals, but differed in that it did not involve nesting, mating, making vocalizations, or friendly interactions.
Researchers suspect that sharks hang together because it can help ensure that different individuals find prey.
“For some time we have known that sharks are capable of recognizing particular group mates and having social preferences,” said marine biologist and study co-author David Jacoby of the Institute of Zoology in London.
“Our study reveals for the first time that they are actually capable of maintaining social partners for many years. “Further, we provide a possible mechanism for such a long-term social structure – that is, social groups are likely to act as information centers from which individuals can follow each other in offshore feeding areas.”
Reporting by Will Dunham; Edited by Sandra Maler