Except you have done in-depth research on sharks, you will definitely want to know if sharks do socialize. By default, most people see sharks as solitary, vacuous killers. It is quite common for people to write sharks off as dangerous and solo, always seeking for prey to devour.
But, are sharks always alone? Do they get to socialize? The truth is that sharks are social creatures. They are not solitary at all. Some species of sharks even exhibit a very complex relationship with each other. While others may not be as complex, they still socialize in their own way.
It will interest you to learn about the social behavior of various shark species. You will be surprised to learn the extent of sharks’ social behaviors and of course, things you never knew about these wonderful sea creatures.
Top 10 Sharks with the Most Complex Social Behaviors
Considering how we would normally see sharks; scientists have given us another awesome side of sharks. With several and long-lasting studies, they proved that sharks are really social. Here is a list of sharks with pronounced social behaviors.
1. The Great White Shark’s Social Structure of Clans
The great white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias) is the man’s greatest enemy among sharks. But this shark is not really as cruel as you may think. They exhibit a complex social structure and behavior.
These sharks show social hierarchy and dominance depending on size, sex, and rights of residence. Following this structure, the larger ones will dominate the smaller sharks, the females will dominate the males, and the residents of a particular region will dominate newcomers.
A 2006 study of the great white sharks show that they hunt and share food. They also keep friends which they spend time with.
The first meeting of two great white sharks usually results in a show of dominance. They try to determine which will dominate. In the end, they either develop a kind of interest or disinterest in one another.
Great white sharks have a social structure of clans. When observed at the Seal islands, they were arriving and leaving the location in clans of up to six members every year. The members of each clan stay together, however, their relationship with each other is not clear yet.
The clan of great white sharks can be likened to a wolf’s pack. This is because each clan has a leader with every member participating actively according to ranking.
When two different clans meet, they make use of non-violent means to create a social rank.
Great white sharks engage in spy-hopping. They lift their heads just above the surface of the sea to observe their environment. They are also intelligent, competitive, and very curious in nature. In all, they are very social sharks.
2. Sand Tiger Sharks Recognizing Relatives.
Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias Taurus) are among the most social shark species. They do not segregate; hence they usually form a close family group of sharks of different ages and sex.
In their lifetime, sand tiger sharks associate effectively with several sharks. Their social behavior is more like that of dolphins, elephants, and gorillas.
The family formed by this shark species bases on the compatibility of the involved members. These sharks do go for solitary hunting; however, they still return to hang out with their small family unit.
The sand tiger shark may have a fearsome appearance, but they are naturally not aggressive. They would not attack humans unless provoked. Divers can approach them but not with spears and fins.
This is according to a 2016 revelation by researchers after years of a close study of this shark species.
3. Lemon Sharks Make, Keep, and Interact with Friends
Researchers conducted a study on lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) in 2009 and found that this shark’s social behavior is unbelievably complex. The most interesting part of it is that they live together.
These sharks enjoy the benefits of communal living. They hunt better, communicate with each other, gain protection from predators, and experience enhanced courtship.
A lemon shark chooses friends with similar sizes. They keep friends mainly because they need to socialize not really because they need to access limited resources.
These sharks learn from social interactions. Friends communicate and hunt together. Juveniles tend to hang out more with adults, thus, they learn better. They need to understand their natural habitat, prey, predators, and other elements.
Lemon sharks have a large brain to body which scientists suggest has more to do with the complexity of the social behavior of mammals and birds.
It was easy for researchers to study this shark species due to the defined habitat. They choose habitat by considering certain environmental factors suggesting better living conditions.
4. Nurse Sharks Mostly Cruise Together
The nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is popular in the sharks’ world for their lazy and slow nature. These sharks spend most of their day time piling on top of one another cruising on the seafloor.
They form groups as large as 40 individuals resting on the floor of the ocean. This social grouping may offer protection to individual sharks.
Apart from resting these sharks may also occasionally swim together in search of food. They generally become more active at night when they feed.
Nurse sharks enjoy their docile self in the company of one another. They love to cuddle themselves spending time together and just chilling out. This is a simple social behavior quick to detect among nurse sharks.
5. Whitetip Reef Sharks Prefers to Stay in Packs
The whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) always moves in packs. They spend most of their day time resting in a shared cave or reef community. The same way they share resting space, they also emerge at night in groups to hunt, feed, and show off in general.
When found in caves resting, these sharks tend to form small groups piling atop one another, or in some cases they arrange themselves parallel to each other. These sharks do not travel far, they always stay within a localized region.
While the whitetip reef shark can go solitary, they rarely stay alone. In fact, for the most part of their lives, these sharks hang out together. They are among the most social shark species in the ocean.
The social behavior of the whitetip reef shark is part of the discovery in the 2016 study of sharks’ social behaviors.
6. Great Hammerheads “Play” While in Group
The great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is surprisingly another social shark. This shark species is known to be mostly solitary. However, they sometimes come in groups to ‘play’. They would twist and turn their body in a dance-like manner.
This body-movement also involves shaking of their head from side to side and swimming in circles.
Whether these sharks are enjoying a dance party or communicating through these suggestive movements is not clear yet. Scientists suggest this may have something to do with mating and courtship.
However, we know that this is a social behavior particular to the great hammerhead shark. These sharks stay and ‘play’ together and this is social enough!
7. Basking Sharks Loves Pairing with their Own Gender
The social behavior of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) lies mostly in them hanging out in pairs. At most, they hang out in groups of three individuals. During their migration period, these sharks tend to travel in groups of up to one hundred individuals.
Normally, basking sharks prefer the company of their own gender. Thus, a female basking shark would hang out with other females while the males do so with their gender. This is interesting, right?
The genders only get to cross during the mating season. Apart from this season and reason, they would stick to hanging out with their own gender. This is a unique social behavior that basking sharks have here, thus giving them a spot in the list of most social sharks.
8. Spotted Wobbegongs and Their Close Groups
Researchers found that spotted wobbegongs (Orectolobus maculatus) exhibit a social behavior which involves them keeping close cliques that they prefer hanging out with. These sharks choose their group and compete against other groups.
Research shows that the cliques of spotted wobbegongs are just as a result of the mere preference of the sharks to keep companies. That is to say that this behavior has nothing to do with hunting advantage or protection.
Spotted wobbegongs would prefer to stay with their cliques rather than relate with just any other spotted wobbegong.
9. Bonnethead Sharks Communicate Through Body Movement
The bonnethead shark can communicate with each by moving their body in certain ways. Sometimes this movement involves the excretion of the cerebrospinal fluid. This is a fluid that helps bonnethead sharks to relate information to others.
These sharks can tell each other locations to their favorite prey such as mollusks and shellfish. They do this especially when there is an abundance of food.
Sharing tips related to food through body movements is a social communication specialty of bonnethead sharks. They do this regularly and are regarded as social sharks.
10. Greenland Sharks Seek for Warmth Together
Greenland sharks would prefer to stay alone in deep ocean waters. However, when it is winter, these sharks migrate together northward to shallower waters seeking warmth.
They stay together till summer when they head south in solitary into deeper waters. Staying together during the winter period helps them to share certain things in common.
Sharks are actually social creatures as you can already see. Saying that sharks are loners might just be a misconception. Instead, different sharks have different social behaviors. There is still limited research on the social behavior of sharks.
However, the more scientists find about these creatures the more surprised they are. So, while you are engaging in your social activities, sharks do theirs in the ocean!