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Are sharks socializing?

Schooling hammerheads, picture by Tomas Kotouc.

Many shark species live in groups, like  grey reef sharks that aggregate in groups of females, and scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) that swim in schools. Is this real’ social behavior’?

Dr. Johann Mourier has set up research about social networks in shark populations. He assumes sharks might be capable of complex cognitive behaviours. Sharks have already been observed to form dominance hierarchies and have been shown to be capable of learning.

But very little is known about the overall organization, structure, and complexity of the group/population of sharks. Dr. Johann Mourier investigated the organisation of shark aggregations, determining whether social interactions are characterized by non-random partner selection in groups. Since reef sharks are giving birth in nursery area and let juveniles growing autonomously without taking care of them, the question is to investigate if young sharks recruit and join their parents to form family structured groups. By genetically sampling groups of sharks, he used microsatellite markers and relatedness analysis to determine if shark groups are composed of close relatives. While forming non-random and stable social groups, blacktip reef sharks do not particularly associate with close relatives.

Read all about his research at:

http://johannmourier.wordpress.com/actual-phd-shark-research-project/social-networks-in-sharks/

Recently, the behavior and interaction of sharks in groups have been filmed. By sharks! Researchers near Hawaii have documented schooling of several different shark species. The researchers affixed small cameras to shark fins to see this behavior without any human presence!

Watch it here:

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