By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt
Shark news update! While beachgoers in Florida worry about a shark attack off St. Augustine, shark behavior research goes strong.
First — A shameless plug.
I had to investigate when I ran into a reference to Dr. Eugenie Clark, aka “The Shark Lady.” Clark agreed to speak with me for an article for the Scientific American Blog Network, and SciAm ran the story today. Clark is a fascinating scientist, and I was glad to share her work in “How to Catch a Shark.”
Second — Experiments at the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas indicate that lemon sharks may learn new behaviors by watching other sharks. The researchers trained sharks to bump to a target to earn a treat. Then the researchers introduced a new group of sharks that were not trained to bump the target. When untrained sharks shared the pen with trained sharks, the untrained sharks learned the “skill” faster. This kind of social learning has been previously studied in animals like chimpanzees.
And finally — Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific airline has banned shark fins as airplane cargo. I think this is news that would make Dr. Clark happy. Overfishing of sharks for shark fin soup is one reason shark populations are declining.
The link above is to a Washington Post article. The article vaguely names “green groups” as the ones pushing for a ban on shark fin soup. I’ll add that many shark researchers, like Clark, also say overfishing of sharks has a big impact on the environment.