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August 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sharks Have Personalities Too

from the August, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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A new paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology offers the first evidence that sharks really do have distinct personalities. In fact, some sharks really may be nicer than others, or whatever the shark equivalent of nice is.

Specifically, the study focused on boldness, defined as "the propensity to take risks," a characteristic that's been used to study personality in marine species from zebrafish to crabs. Using Port Jackson sharks (a nocturnal species found off the coast of southern Australia), the researchers ran two tests, one designed to test the sharks' boldness and the other to see how they reacted to stress. For the first, they placed each shark in a small enclosure within a tank, timing how long it took for the animal to poke a head or a fin out of the box, and how long it took them to swim into the open. For the second, they held each shark out of the water for a minute; once they put it back, they recorded how many times per minute it beat its tail through the water, a marker of anxiety....

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