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marine environment is filled with biotic and abiotic sounds, some of which can
predict important events and can help animals find food or their way home. Specific
sound cues and ‘soundscapes’ facilitate vital activities such as foraging,
predator avoidance, communication and orientation. Most research with sounds in sharks has focused on hearing ability
and attractiveness to sound sources, but very little is known about their
abilities to learn about sounds, especially in benthic species.
research project investigates whether juvenile Port Jackson sharks can learn to
associate a musical stimulus with a food reward, and then discriminate between
two distinct musical stimuli. We found that five out of eight sharks were successfully conditioned to associate
a jazz song with a food reward delivered in a specific corner of the tank. Interestingly,
some sharks developed a strong side-bias to the right, which gave them higher
chances of receiving a reward compared to random choice.
hope that by shedding light on their fascinating learning abilities, we can help
to promote a positive opinion of sharks, an important factor in shifting public
and political will towards their conservation.
Research led by Catarina Vila Pouca and A/Prof
Culum Brown from the Fish Lab at Macquarie University. For volunteering/internship
opportunities head to http://thefishlab.com.