Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sharks Learn Skills From Each Other

Lemon sharks cruising the Bahamas. Photo courtesy: Gary Rinaldi/CC BY-SA 2.0

Well, once again science has proved something many of us knew all along...sharks learn behaviours from other sharks. And they can learn from experience as well.

A bit of jaunt off the intended path; but, another story that proves that sharks can reason. Florence, a nurse shark was hooked once (for captivity unfortunately); but, she still remembers that fish was used to disguise the hook which eventually led to her capture. Florence is now the world's first vegetarian shark.

However, scientists have now decided that, for whatever reason, now is the time to break this "startling" news. BBC News is highlighting the sharks' ability to learn new skills.

Scientists from the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas have discovered that lemon sharks engage in "social learning" — the first time that such ability has been observed in cartilaginous fish.

In experiments untrained lemon sharks completed tasks more quickly working with trained lemon sharks, suggesting that the untrained sharks "are able to pick up social cues from each other."

Because of the type of experiment done, the scientists say they don't know the actual social learning process going on, but it's "quite obvious" that this is what's happening. Lemon sharks learn from other lemon sharks.

Personally, I'm thinking that the fact they can be trained by humans show that lemon sharks are capable of learning from any species in any situation. After all, I'm not thinking they run into a lot of people down where they usually hang out. It makes sense to me that left in their natural habitat they would learn from both their surroundings and other lemon sharks.

Beyond the research itself the thing that strikes me in all this is how it just takes one more brick from the human-created wall that separates humans from other animal species. Differences certainly exist but none of them support the notion that humans are unique in the ways we have historically fashioned for ourselves. Perhaps it's time we assume that other animals are essentially like ourselves until proven different, rather than the other way around.