Individual Personalities Found in Bull Sharks

Individual Personalities Found in Bull Sharks

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In a groundbreaking revelation, a recent study has shattered the myth of uniform behaviour among sharks, specifically in bull sharks, shedding light on the existence of individual personalities within this iconic species.

Bull shark
Bull shark investigating. Photo by Ila France Porcher.

Conventionally, shark behaviour has been perceived as largely instinctive and uniform across individuals. However, a team of researchers, led by Thomas M. Vignaud, have upended this notion, uncovering a spectrum of individual personalities among bull sharks frequenting feeding sites.

Their study involved recording the behaviour of 31 wild adult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) over an extensive period. Remarkably, researchers documented over 2,800 instances of shark behaviour during 651 dives at a provisioning site, providing unprecedented insight into the intricate nuances of their actions.

An ethological approach to shark behaviour

Employing an ethological approach, researchers created an ethogram and a detailed table to evaluate behavioural traits and calculate a personality profile for each shark, along with its plasticity metric. This innovative method enabled the quantification of individual differences in behaviour over time, unveiling a wide range of potential behavioural responses in the individual bull sharks attending the dives.

Bull shark

The implications

The implications of these findings extend beyond mere academic curiosity. Understanding the distinct personalities within shark populations could help researchers understand human-shark interactions and then develop more effective management strategies.

Moreover, the study suggests that the existence of different personalities among sharks may represent an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS), enhancing their chances of survival by adapting to environmental risks that vary with time and context.

However, the research also highlights potential challenges. For instance, bold sharks, inclined to explore novel prey, may pose a greater risk to ocean users, which underlines the importance of taking nuanced approaches to shark-human interactions.

A new way of thinking about sharks

In light of these findings, future research endeavours may delve deeper into personality differences among sharks, integrating genetic analysis and hormonal studies with underwater observation to unravel the complexities of their behaviour.

Ultimately, this groundbreaking study, published in Behaviour’s Special Issue on Elasmobranch Behaviour and Cognition, marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of shark behaviour.

Examining individual behavioural variation in wild adult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) suggests divergent personalities