THEY CAN LEARN

Focus-Science and Technology - - Zoology -

In the 1950s, US bi­ol­o­gist Eu­ge­nie Clark first showed that sharks can be trained us­ing food re­wards, just like lots of other an­i­mals. More re­cently, re­searchers in the Ba­hamas taught cap­tive le­mon sharks to press a tar­get with their snout in re­turn for food (im­age of le­mon shark on pre­vi­ous page). When sharks were kept with others that al­ready knew what to do, they learned the task faster than when they were left to fig­ure things out for them­selves. This kind of so­cial learn­ing is an­other im­por­tant as­pect of animal in­tel­li­gence. Other stud­ies have shown that young le­mon sharks pre­fer to hang out in gangs with other sharks they al­ready know. It’s not yet known if they sim­ply dis­tin­guish be­tween fa­mil­iar ver­sus un­fa­mil­iar sharks, or if they recog­nise in­di­vid­u­als.

LEFT: Ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist Eu­ge­nie Clark, seen here ex­am­in­ing deep-sea sharks, was the first to show that sharks can be trained us­ing food

BE­LOW LEFT: Stud­ies on manta rays sug­gest they may be self-aware, yet it’s likely that the fishy world con­tains more ex­am­ples of this

RIGHT: In this coloured 3D scan of a ze­brafish, its large eye can clearly be seen in blue

BE­LOW RIGHT: On the Great Bar­rier Reef, groupers and eels will buddy up to in­crease the ef­fi­ciency of hunt­ing trips

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