Shark Social Networks

imageSharks have a reputation for being ruthless, solitary predators, but evidence is mounting that certain species enjoy complex social lives that include longstanding relationships and teamwork.

A new study, published in the latest Animal Behaviour, documents how one population of blacktip reef sharks is actually organized into four communities and two subcommunities. The research shows for the first time that adults of a reef-associated shark species form stable, long-term social bonds.

Lead author Johann Mourier told Discovery News that "other species, such as grey reef sharks and scalloped hammerheads form polarized groups where individuals have a specific place, and such species may also have complex social organization."

Analysis of the data determined that the sharks had organized themselves into meaningful social groups.

Mourier suspects the sharks join together in communities for protection and to avoid aggression with each other. He and his colleagues also observed a remarkable feat, "when a group of about four or five blacktip reef sharks herded a school of fishes around a coral structure." This suggests they can cooperate with each other to hunt as a team.

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Category: Shark Bites

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