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From the BBC:

Lemon sharks have the ability to learn from each other’s behaviour, scientists have found.

The team compared the performance of inexperienced juvenile sharks working with both trained and untrained partners.

The results showed that sharks working with trained partners could complete tasks more quickly and successfully.

The study is thought to be the first to demonstrate social learning in any cartilaginous fish.

“I think it’s a really cool finding,” said lead author Dr Tristan Guttridge, director of the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, whose paper was published in the Journal of Animal Cognition.

The results are a significant breakthrough, according to Dr Guttridge.

“It’s a pretty exciting finding that these little lemon sharks are able to pick up social cues from each other,” he said.

The evidence came from a task-based experiment with juvenile sharks conducted in an underwater pen.

The pen contained an “indicator zone” which functioned as the start area. In the other corner was a “target zone” in which there was a black and white marker that could be covered or exposed by the scientists.

When the sharks swam into the indicator zone, the target was exposed.

By swimming into the target zone and bumping the black and white target they earned a piece of barracuda, which was lowered into the pool.

One group of sharks, the “trained demonstrators” was trained in this task until they could complete it roughly six times every minute. Another group, the “sham demonstrators”, was left untrained.

Members of each group were then paired up with “naive”, untrained sharks and the pairs were introduced to the pool, observed and filmed.

“You can see the shark that’s been with the demonstrator, how interested he is in the particular zones, moving between them,” said Dr Guttridge of the video footage.

“It’s really quite obvious that they’re picking up social cues from the other individual and the excited behaviour of the demonstrator is getting the other guy interested as well.”

The study then isolated those sharks that had observed the demonstrators to see how they performed on their own.

The juveniles that had been paired with “demonstrator sharks” completed a greater number of trials more quickly than those with untrained partners.

Wow.

So at least with lemon sharks, there is quite a bit of social learning going on.

 

 

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