Tuesday, August 17, 2010

IT’S AUGUST, LET’S TALK SHARK










According to Scientific American, sharks are not, in fact, the big, dumb, nasty, Quint-eating sons-of-bitches we generally imagine them to be. Although it’s still unlikely that even a Great White is smart enough to follow Ellen Brody all the way from Amity to the Bahamas like the one in Jaws: The Revenge. (On the other hand, we though Michael Caine might have been smart enough to stay away from such a godawful movie.)

"Sharks have remained relatively unchanged by evolution for 400 million years, but shark science has evolved significantly in just the past few decades. In 1987 when Discovery Channel's now-famous Shark Week series debuted, researchers had few means of studying the animals beyond underwater cages and crude acoustic tracking devices. Twenty-three years later, marine biologists studying elasmobranch (the subclass of cartilaginous fishes that include sharks, skates and rays) animals employ satellite tracking, genetic analysis and high-definition cameras to broaden their knowledge of shark biology and behavior. This research is revealing, among other things, that even sharks like the great white are intelligent, curious animals with cognitive abilities worth studying. "Many sharks have good learning capacity, which is one way we measure intelligence," says Samuel Gruber, a marine biologist at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), who discovered in 1975 that lemon sharks could learn a classical conditioning task 80 times faster than a cat or rabbit. "I was shocked to find that they could learn so rapidly," he says. Gruber's National Science Foundation–supported Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, known as Sharklab, is now planning to start a doctoral research program on shark cognition.” Click here for more.

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