Showing posts from 2011

Thoughtful Sharks : Self Awareness

As described in my former posting (below), the blackfin reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) I was able to study closely for many years, demonstrate that they know each other as individuals in a variety of ways, one of which is their tendency to travel with a preferred companion. This pattern of swimming with a companion may have facilitated their acceptance of me, permitting me to swim over long periods of time with different individuals and learn where they went and how they passed their days.
They spend much of their time in home ranges, familiar regions where they prefer to be. Such areas are not defended in the way that territories are, so sharks with overlapping home ranges know each other. When they travel, they often go with one or more of these “neighbours”. They follow circular paths hundreds of feet across, oriented in different directions so that from above, their path has the shape of figure eights or cloverleafs. Following such circling pathways, they repeatedly cross …

Thoughtful Sharks : Knowing Others as Individuals

In Tahiti, I observed the reef sharks inhabiting the nearby lagoon. They soon accepted me into their community, and by noting the behaviour of each individual in a variety of situations over a period of many years, I found an unknown dimension of their lives, never before observed or documented. This included much evidence that the sharks were using cognition, or thinking, in their daily activities, rather than the automatic stimulus/response reactions that had been assumed to control their behaviour.

To illustrate the difference between automatic behaviour and cognition, consider a calculation. The act of calculating, which is so easily and swiftly accomplished by computers, is analogous to automatic behaviour. But understandingthe reason for the computation requires cognition, which the computer will never achieve.

Various domains of science use different definitions of cognition, but for me as an ethologist, the most straightforward definition is : thepurposefulmanipulationofmentalre…

Channel Twelve News on CBS

Due to the urgent need to save sharks from extinction, CBS here in Florida aired an interview with me on the subject.
You can see it on my website at : Just click on the menu bar on the left hand side labelled "My Sunset Rendezvous" and you will see the link on the right.

Press Release

May 3, 2011
Author and shark behavior researcher  visits South Florida
Ila France Porcher, researcher of wild shark behavior, and author of "My Sunset Rendezvous," is in South Florida this month giving a series of informative presentations on the intelligence and social behavior of sharks. Her talk shares the excitement of her unique method of finding things out about sharks, which are often killed for science and studied dead.
From 1995 until 2009 she established never before achieved intimacy with the reef sharks that inhabited the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia.
During this intensive ethological study, she made some intriguing discoveries and had many strange and startling experiences. When the Internet became available, she began to connect with other scientists across the world, comparing her observations, while accumulating evidence about sharks that transcends common beliefs. Her book is the story of this study, set in the framework of life in the islands, and the sh…

See the latest issue of Beyond Blue!

There is a long article about My Sunset Rendezvous in the latest issue, issue 10, of the Journal Beyond Blue. You can download it at:
There is also an article on shark protection that strongly credits 2009, The Year of the Shark Project, with having given significant impetus to the initiation of many shark protection projects globally. It says that the influence of the Year of the Shark continues to this day. 
This is certainly something to be pleased about, for those of us who worked so hard on it.