Fans of the 2004 animated hit “Shark Tale” may be familiar with the core concept of recent findings from researchers in Australia. For the first time, distinct individual personality traits have been observed in sharks, adding to a list of hundreds of animals who appear to have unique responses to various scenarios.
“Over the past few decades, personality research has shown that nearly 200 species of animals demonstrate individual personality. Personality is no longer considered a strictly human characteristic, rather it is a characteristic deeply engrained in our evolutionary past,” said Evan Byrnes, the lead author of the study.
Granted, the differences may not be quite as distinct as those shown in “Shark Tale,” which featured a family of sharks with one vegetarian son who refused to partake in family hunts. The researchers at Macquarie University came up with trials that tested the boldness of sharks, seeing how long it took them to explore new environments and recover from traumatizing experiences.
One of the trials put sharks in tanks and provided shelter. Researchers then analyzed how long it took for them to leave and explore new environments. A second test subjected the sharks to stressful situations, like getting caught by a fisher and then released, and watched to see how long it took for them to recover.
They found individual sharks had consistent and repeated reactions to these scenarios. Sharks showed they would act the same or similarly in repeated trials, indicating the behaviors were ingrained, not just random reactions.
“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 behaviors,” said Culum Brown, an associate professor at Macquarie University.
Other animals with personalities include primates like chimpanzees and even hermit crabs, the BBC reported. In the ocean with sharks, dolphins are also known to have personalities and some research has indicated they possess human-levels of intelligence.