Sharks are capable of thinking and feeling emotions to the degree that individuals can be distinguished from each other in a group.
I’m betting that either you or someone you know is afraid of the idea of interacting with a shark; with their razor-sharp teeth and menacing eyes, they can certainly be quite an intimidating sight.
However, contrary to popular belief, sharks are capable of both thinking and feeling emotions, which influence sharks anywhere from prey choice to habitat use and allow researchers to better manage their populations to support overall marine ecosystems.
This may all seem quite surprising at first, but that is exactly what we’ll be diving into in this article today.
Do Sharks Think?
Sharks are certainly capable of thinking, which, as surprising as it may sound, can be observed quite easily.
I say that because one of their best-known traits, feeding, often requires a very keen mind.
Although most sharks are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will feed whenever given a chance, they can still be quite picky when it comes to their prey.
The majority of sharks, for example, typically will prefer feeding on smaller fish and invertebrates, while larger sharks might feed on prey such as sea lions or seals.
This means that sharks need to be able to distinguish what kind of prey they’d prefer with what’s actually around, which certainly can take a very observant mind, especially in a large and complex marine ecosystem!
Do Sharks Recognize Humans?
Sharks are capable of recognizing humans; however, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to interact with them.
I say this because even though sharks do not confuse humans with their natural prey (i.e. seals), they can be confused by humans moving in the water and accidentally attacking due to their curiosity.
Sharks have several ways of recognizing humans, as well as other objects, some of which can cause harm.
For example, two ways that sharks can recognize things are by grabbing onto it with their teeth, which are highly flexible, to get a physical sense of it, or by taking a bite and seeing what it’s made of.
However, either of these ways is obviously dangerous to humans, so it’s definitely not recommended to interact with sharks without precautions and supervision.
Overall, however, the point to take from this is that, even though sharks can harm humans, it is almost always because of their curiosity and because they recognize humans as not being their natural prey.
Otherwise, we’ll definitely be seeing way more fatal injuries than what is actually being reported.
Do Sharks Feel Emotions?
Sharks are not only capable of feeling emotions similar to humans, but they can even be subject to psychological trauma.
Because fish (such as sharks), birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates all share similar brain structures, especially the areas that manage thinking and feeling, they can feel emotions in a similar way.
These animals are truly the personification of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”!
Sharks, in particular, have been observed to demonstrate emotions of both boldness and stress.
In a research done in Port Jackson, Australia, some local sharks were observed exploring new areas out of curiosity, and some were seen refusing to leave their current settlements.
This negative correlation between curiosity and stress level was consistent throughout several trials, indicating a significant link between the two and proving, for the first time, that sharks can have individual personality differences.
Can Sharks Cry?
Sharks, being a type of fish, are unable to cry, despite being able to feel pain due to the presence of natural receptors called noticeptors, which generate pain signals.
Fish, in general, are unable to cry mainly due to two reasons.
- One, fish do not have a need to cry. That might sound like a poor excuse, but if you think about it, humans have tears all the time surrounding their eyes to lubricate them (we lose the moisture through blinking) and to protect them from dust and other particulates that can gather on the eyelashes. Because fish are always surrounded by water, they simply do not need to protect their eyes or keep them moist.
- Two, fish lack the necessary organs in order to produce tears. The cerebral cortex, lacrimal gland, and nasolacrimal duct are all necessary in order to generate the emotions needed for tear production and for the actual production itself. Without them, fish, including sharks, simply can’t physically produce tears.
Can Sharks Become Sad?
Sharks, like other fish, can certainly become sad or even depressed due to situations such as poor feeding or handling.
Although sharks cannot cry, they may display different emotional cues such as isolating themselves from a group or making “crying sounds”, depending on the species.
Can Sharks Show Affection?
Sharks are capable of showing affection, although actual documentation of such events is rare.
The main reason why there isn’t much evidence of such is that gaining the affection of a shark can be a very lengthy and dedicated process.
Of course, we only know this because cases of sharks being affectionate to humans have been indeed documented.
As you can see from the video below, there’s been a documented case of a shark showing clear affection towards a diver after the latter removed five hooks from the shark’s mouth.
Starting from gentle touches, the diver eventually gained the trust of the shark, and it allowed him to finally remove the hooks.
Afterward, this particular shark, along with several others in a similar situation, showed affection by allowing the diver to remove further hooks and by approaching the diver voluntarily.
So, I’m betting after reading this slightly lengthy article; you might be thinking that sharks actually aren’t as terrifying as they’re made to look.
While it’s true that sharks are capable of much more emotion and thought than people have previously known, they are, at the end of the day, still wild animals that should be respected.
Therefore, the next time you see a shark, make sure to observe it from a safe distance and with proper precautions, but there’s certainly no need to panic!