WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sharks have a more complex social life than previously known, as shown by a study showing Pacific gray reef sharks nurture a social network surprisingly well. Each other and developing relationships can last for many years.
Gray coral sharks, which are the subject of a study of inter-shark social behavior, were seen in the Pacific around Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii in This undated photo is released August 12, 2020. Yannis Papastamatiou / Documentation via REUTERS.
This study focused on the social behaviors of 41 coral sharks around Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii, using phonics to track them and camera tags. to gain more clarity on their interactions.
No longer solitary creatures, the sharks have formed fairly stable social communities over time, with several similar individuals coexisting during the four years of research.
The researchers recorded a daily pattern, with sharks spending their mornings together in groups sometimes close to 20 individuals in the same section of the reef, scattering throughout the day and night and gathering. next morning again.
Marine biologist Yannis Papastamatiou of Florida International University, the lead author of the study published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, said: “Sharks are amazing and still understood. wrong.
“I like to talk about their ‘secret social life’ not because they want it to be secret, but because only recently have we developed tools to begin to see and understand their social life. “, Added Papastamatiou.” “Not all sharks live together and some are capable of living alone.”
Reef sharks are of medium size, up to about 2 meters long. Its sociability has similarities in stability over time to some birds and mammals but differs in that it does not involve nesting, mating, chirping or mating. friendly partners.
Researchers suspect sharks hang out together because it can help ensure that different individuals find prey.
Marine biologist and study co-author David Jacoby of the Zoological Institute in London said: “We have long known that sharks have the ability to recognize mates in particular groups and have social interests. .
“Our research revealed for the first time that they were indeed capable of sustaining social partnerships for many years. Furthermore, we provide a viable mechanism for such a permanent social structure – namely, social groups that can act as information centers from which individuals can follow each other. offshore foraging areas. ”
Will Dunham’s report; Edited by Sandra Maler