What is it about?

On seeing that blacktip reef sharks displayed unusual behaviour during incidental meetings, I began studying them through underwater observation, identifying individuals and keeping track of sightings. Seven years passed while I continued to see new behaviours, including those that suggested complex cognition. Each individual responded differently in different situations. Their actions were swift and flexible according to the circumstances. In this paper I describe their repertoire of 35 context-specific actions.

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Why is it important?

This ethogram for blacktip reef sharks is more complete than any that has yet been done for a shark species, as a result of the length of time devoted to the study.


Since mental states are closely tied with action, this paper provides an intriguing glimpse into the minds of a species evolutionarily distant from us. For example, not only do they prefer to approach strange situations with their companions, but they do it in formation! Besides a variety of cognitive capabilities, their behaviour also suggests that they experience strong subjective states (emotions).

Ila France Porcher
Independent researcher

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Ethogram for blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), Behaviour, April 2023, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/1568539x-bja10213.
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