Today’s Solutions: November 28, 2021

Yesterday, we shared a story about how animals also engage in the practice of social distancing in order to mitigate the spread of disease. Today, we have quite a different story about the surprisingly social behavior of gray reef sharks.

Apparently, a new study has found that these sharks form social bonds with others and regularly meet up together in the same groups. They also work together when it comes to hunting.

This isn’t to say that sharks can be friends, but the new findings provide insights into the social lives of marine predators previously believed to be largely solitary creatures. And some of those social groups remain stable for periods of up to four years.

To uncover these findings, researchers at Florida International University in Miami used a hook and a line to capture 41 gray reef sharks at Palmyra Atoll, an island measuring less than 5 square miles in size in the Central Pacific Ocean’s Line Islands chain. The scientists surgically implanted transmitters in the sharks they caught, giving each shark its own unique code. From there, the researchers went on to monitor the animals’ movements from 2011 through 2014.

In those four years, the researchers cataloged a total of 972 unique social clustering events, in which those sharks reunited with their chosen social network. With approximately 8,000 sharks to associate with in the waters around the atoll, the sharks’ decision to hang out with the same crew on the regular was an instance of “unprecedented social stability,” the researchers said.

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