Sharks are often seen as terrifying predators of the ocean; we need merely look at Jaws or even their giant interlocking sharp, jagged teeth to understand why they are usually seen as ‘evil’ or ‘monstrous'
Yet surprisingly, as outlined in a new study these often feared fish have friends, well at least companions they like to swim alongside for years.
The study was undertaken in Southern Australia with Port Jackson sharks. Researchers monitored how the sharks interact with each other analysing their social networks to better understand the shark’s behaviour. However, they never expected to find that these sharks not only have the ability to recognise friends but also to sustain lasting friendships.
Culum Brown, the study author, said in a statement:
“One of the exciting things about this research is that we found the large aggregations that these sharks form in the breeding season is not a random collection of individuals.”
"These sharks prefer to hang out with other individuals who are similar to them."
The Port Jackson shark is a migrating shark. They travel from Jervis Bay to Tasmania and return back to Jervis Bay the following year to commence the breeding season. Researchers used this migration to analyse the social patterns of the sharks. They tagged a group of sharks and used their social network analysis as well as acoustic readers implanted on the ocean floor to track them.
The results, published in the Royal Society Open Science showed that sharks upon returning to the breeding ground will not only find the exact same location where they were the year before but also will spend most of their time with the same individuals and often of the same sex. Jo Day, co-author from Taronga Zoo explains:
"Both males and females return to the same rocky reef to breed year after year, which is unusual for sharks, but it means that these sharks establish long-term relationships over many years,"
The study aims to shatter the misconception that they are the ‘mindless killers’ portrayed in popular media and film.
After all, fish are friends, not food.