Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz

Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz

While for many people sharks bring to mind the Jaws theme music, it seems sharks themselves prefer jazz.

Baby Port Jackson Shark

Far from mindless eating machines, new research from the Macquarie University Fish Lab has shown sharks are much more sophisticated than most people imagine.

Researchers trained baby Port Jackson sharks to associate music with a food reward. When played a jazz song, the sharks learnt to go to a feeding station for a tasty treat.

“Sound is really important for aquatic animals, it travels well under water and fish use it to find food, hiding places and even to communicate,” says lead author Catarina Vila-Pouca from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that sharks can learn to associate the sounds of boat engines with food, for example as part of shark cage-diving activities. The study published this week in Animal Cognition provides evidence that sharks can learn the association relatively quickly.

But when it came to differentiating between jazz and classical music the sharks struggled.

“It was obvious that the sharks knew that they had to do something when the classical music was played, but they couldn’t figure out that they had to go to a different location,” says Biology’s Associate Professor Culum Brown, who co-authored the research.

Find out more.

Published 14 May 2018.

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