Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz music

May 8, 2018, Macquarie University
Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz music
Credit: Macquarie University

While for many people sharks bring to mind the Jaws theme music, it seems sharks themselves prefer jazz.

Far from mindless eating machines, new research from the Macquarie University Fish Lab has shown sharks are much more sophisticated than most people imagine.

Researchers trained baby Port Jackson sharks to associate music with a reward. When played a jazz song, the sharks learnt to go to a feeding station for a tasty treat.

"Sound is really important for aquatic animals, it travels well under water and use it to find food, hiding places and even to communicate," said lead author Catarina Vila-Pouca from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that sharks can learn to associate the sounds of boat engines with food, for example as part of shark cage-diving activities. The study published this week in Animal Cognition provides evidence that sharks can learn the association relatively quickly.

Associate Professor Culum Brown of the Department of Biological Sciences and the leader of The Fish Lab said when it came to differentiating between jazz and , the sharks struggled.

"It was obvious that the sharks knew that they had to do something when the classical music was played, but they couldn't figure out that they had to go to a different location," said Associate Professor Brown.

"The task is harder than it sounds, because the sharks had to learn that different locations were associated with a particular genre of , which was then paired with a . Perhaps with more training they would have figured it out."

Ms Vila-Pouca said the research from The Fish Lab hopes to reveal some of the fascinating learning abilities of sharks.

"Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities – most people see them as mindless, instinctive animals.

"However, they have really big brains and are obviously much smarter than we give them credit for.

"Gaining a better understanding of this will help grow positive public opinion of and may shift public and political will towards their conservation."

Explore further: Young sharks get by with a little help from their friends

More information: Catarina Vila Pouca et al. Food approach conditioning and discrimination learning using sound cues in benthic sharks, Animal Cognition (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-018-1183-1

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1 / 5 (1) May 08, 2018
I am struggling to find anything at all in this article:)
not rated yet May 08, 2018
"So we played the sharks Jazz, and then we played them Classical, and we were like come on figure it out!"
not rated yet May 08, 2018
There is nothing in this article that suggests sharks prefer jazz music. There is an implied suggestion that the researchers themselves prefer jazz music however. Also that the research seems to be as unfocused and disconnected as a typical jazz tune.
Howard W
not rated yet May 10, 2018
"Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz music". No they can't - read the paper.

Sharks were unable to distinguish jazz from classical music. There was no evidence of "liking" or "acquiring a taste for" one sort of music. What the study did show - if you bother to read it - is that sharks could learn to tell the difference between no music playing and jazz music playing. This is not the same as "liking jazz". Poor and lazy journalism.

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