In movies like Spielberg’s Jaws and in news reports through the ages, we’ve been led to believe that sharks are mindless, predatory, blood-sniffing, killing machines. Were one to assign a feeling to such a creature, it would be bloodlust.
Contrary to what we thought we knew about shark personalities, Australian researchers E.E. Byrnes and C. Brown found that sharks in Port Jackson in Sydney, Australia, have distinct personality differences, apparently including feelings, as indicated by their responses to a test that measured their stress responses.
In another test, sharks were offered the opportunity to explore a new habitat. Some, indicating that they had an adventurous desire to explore, went off exploring. Others, who were apparently more timid about trying new things, chose to stay safely away from the new, unfamiliar place.
Because the sharks with the strongest stress responses were also the more timid sharks when presented with the new habitat, and those with the weaker stress responses were also bolder, the scientists were able to conclude that the correlation in the behaviors indicated very different personalities with differing feelings.
Other research in the UK that was a 2014 cooperative effort by the University of Exeter and the Marine Biological Association of the UK demonstrated that different sharks possessed various personality traits.
Like people, some of the sharks studied liked to socialize, staying together and interacting with one another as a family of sorts. Much like a herd of grazing animals, keeping the younger members protected within the herd. More reclusive sharks found other ways to keep themselves safe by blending in with their surroundings.
Many studies have been done on shark behavior. Scientists surmise that they form social groups for a variety of reasons: mating, gender, hunting, and food preference. They seem to get along in their groups without killing each other.
It is a well-known fact that sharks are important to the oceans of the earth. With or without personalities, which they apparently have, they serve the same purpose as land predators serve: weeding the garden. They pick off the weak and sick from groups of prey and keep in check populations that could become destructive to sea grasses and other essential ocean features.
Like wolf packs, social shark groups hunt and rest together. More solitary sharks might be compared to a lone wolf or a male grizzly, preferring to hunt alone because he is confident that he will dominate his prey.
Feelings for Sharks
Doubtless, many people, particularly those who are public advocates for sharks like SharkSavers of WildAid, do have feelings for sharks. They promote diving with sharks, befriending them, preserving them, and understanding them when other people simply want to avoid them. Their work is admirable.