Sharks are teaming up to outwit us.

PhysOrg reports on the discovery that sharks aren’t quite the “lone wolves of the sea” that they seem. In fact, sharks form social networks and share strategies to avoid capture:

The researchers, from Macquarie University and the Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement, examined a population of the sharks in French Polynesia.

“The sharks have many relationships with other sharks in their network, so a large number of sharks can be removed from the network before the network breaks down,” said study author Dr Johann Mourier from the Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement. “This is a sign of a resilient society.”

“It may surprise people that sharks have social networks too. Sharks have traditionally been assumed to show some form of social structure only in particular situations like mating, feeding or migrations. Even though their social structure is not as complex as that of some mammals, sharks can display an affinity for one another,” said study co-author Associate Professor Culum Brown from the Department of Biological Sciences.

In addition to this surprising result, the researchers also noticed that the sharks already caught were increasingly difficult to catch again as they avoided the fishing gear. This has implications for population size estimates based on mark-recapture methodologies.

“The shark’s ability to learn from previous negative experiences resulted in a network that is more resilient to removal from fishing” said Dr Mourier.

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