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Sharks Have Personalities, Latest Research Shows

First Posted: May 31, 2016 05:54 AM EDT
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Most people think that sharks are among the most dangerous predators that threaten human existence. While "Jaws" is a fictional story, the fact that they have layers of shark teeth does nothing to calm people down when they see sharks in water.

Not that statistics are making it easy for us to say "Sharks are friends, not food," either because in 2015, the highest ever number of unprovoked shark attacks was recorded -- 99 cases in all. The year before that, it was only 72.

This may mean that sharks attack and kill people, but to put things in perspective, Science Alert noted that this does not compare to the 25,000 deaths caused by man's best friend every year. Yes, more dog bites kill people than shark bites, but to be fair to your furry pet, it was mostly due to rabies.

But while many think sharks are monsters, scientists discovered that they too, are actually complex creatures with personalities -- just like us. Phys.org reported that a team of researchers from Macquarie's Department of Biological Sciences observed shark behavior from the east coast of Australia and found that individuals have distinct and consistent responses for when they are exposed to stress and an unfamiliar environment, which is similar to the way that human personalities defines who we are an how we respond to certain situations.

"Over the past few decades, personality research has shown that nearly 200 species of animals demonstrate individual personality," lead author Evan Byrnes said. "Personality is no longer considered a strictly human characteristic, rather it is a characteristic deeply engrained in our evolutionary past."

The results showed that due to the sharks' consistent behaviors over repeated trials, these are not chance reactions, but rather their personalities -- some sharks really are bolder than others, and other handle stress better.

"We are excited about these results because they demonstrate that sharks are not just mindless machines. Just like humans, each shark is an individual with its unique preferences and behaviours," associate professor, Culum Brown noted.

According to BBC News, other animals with known personalities include primates such as chimpanzees, and even hermit crabs. In the deeper oceans, dolphins are also said to have personalities, and even indications of their human-levels of intelligence.

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