Scientists Discover Sharks’ “Friendly” Behavior

March 26, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. solitary (adj.) – having the desire to live alone
Example: The sharks are thought to be solitary because they hunt food alone.

2. predator (n.) – an animal that kills other animals for food
Example: Sharks are predators of smaller fishes.

3. associate (v.) – to be with a person or a group
Example: Social animals associate with others of their same kind.
4. factor (n.) – something that contributes to a result
Example: Sharks’ violent behavior is one of the factors why people are scared of them.

5. aggression (n.) – angry or violent behavior
Example: Hurting animals may lead them to aggression.

Read the text below.

Deadly and solitary—these are qualities that usually describe sharks. But a discovery by researchers from the Center for Island Research and Environmental Study (CNRS-EPHE) may prove that sharks are friendlier than most people think.

A team of researchers, led by Johann Mourier, went to seven different dive sites in Moorea Island, French Polynesia to observe and take pictures of sharks. The study found that even the famous predator forms communities within its own species.

Researchers learned sharks such as grey reef sharks and scalloped hammerheads collect into groups. On the other hand, Mourier said, species like black tip reef shark associate more with other sharks of the same length and sex within their communities.

In an earlier study, Mourier already learned that a shark’s length determines its age. An adult 7-year-old blacktip reef shark, for example, measures about 3.6 feet long. Now, researchers are looking at age as an important factor for shark relationships.

The scientists suggest that sharks form communities to prevent aggression toward one another. These sharks also have the advantage of teamwork when hunting food. Moreover, Mourier explained, knowing other sharks would help a shark become more familiar with its environment.

Mourier and his team have taken DNA samples from 70% of the observed sharks, and are currently studying if sharks also group with their relatives. Scientists say sharks have large brains for their bodies, and it may be the reason why they are capable of complex social behavior. But such studies on shark relationships have been few, because of the difficulty in following sharks in open sea.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         How can the study of shark behavior be beneficial?
·         Should studies on animals continue even at the risk of harming them?

Discussion B

·         If you could study the behavior of one of the deadliest animals (i.e., snakes, sharks, lions, etc.) which animal and why?
·         How can people overcome their fears of some animals?


March 26, 2012