I fell in love with sharks in a lagoon in Tahiti, during fifteen years of underwater study of their natural behaviour. When they were finned for the criminal shark fin racket, I wrote down their story in a book called The Shark Sessions. I am still working to save these unexpectedly intelligent and friendly wild animals from extinction, and welcome your interest. Thank you for visiting!
Monday, 6 July 2015
Sharks Enjoy Divers as Divers Enjoy Sharks!
Sharks are interested in others, and their
spontaneous gestures toward divers show their curiosity toward other members of their submarine community,
including divers who show interest in them. The
interest is returned.
Thus it is possible through photos to capture the eye to eye gaze of
these mysterious creatures of the deep, when for just few moments of
their day, they meet us.
of others as individuals has long been established in fish and sharks, as in other social species. As
well as knowing others, sharks demonstrate by their actions that they
recognize themselves as being separate from others and observable. To
this degree they are self aware.
The photo shows one of my shark companions coming to greet me when she
found me in the lagoon. She looks at me with first one eye and then the
other as she approaches with her gently undulating movement.
She nearly touches my face with hers, then turns to swim away at an angle over my shoulder.
I gave her a treat after she had followed me for a long time, and
snapped a photo as she accelerated away shaking her scrap. If you look
closely, you can see her right eye looking back at me. Sharks, like
horses, can look straight behind them as well as in front due to their
This tiger shark had come
over to look at me and when she left, she turned and glanced at me
behind her, with one eye after another. Here a tiger shark had come
to see me, then swam away and suddenly turned back..
She swam straight back to me
and came to look at me again.
curiosity seemed to be associated with the shark's interest in the other
large animals in the region. Her focus on my eyes is typical of all of
the close approaches of this sort by sharks that I have witnessed.
have often come across statements by people, especially fishermen, who
were approached by a shark in this way, who claimed that the shark was "attacking,"
or "would have attacked" had the shark not been shot or blown up with a
power head, or something like that. But the real reason for these close
approaches is the natural, social curiosity of this intelligent animal.
Bull sharks will come for a friendly look, too.
So will Caribbean reef sharks.
And lemon sharks.
many different species of shark will do this, the behaviour pattern is
likely wide-spread among them. Curiosity that is not based on a
biological need is a sign of intelligence, and in this case is
apparently linked to a wish to socialize.
A communication passes through a shared gaze in eye contact, and
it seems important to sharks, given this common behaviour with divers,
as well as to us mammals.
The book I wrote about my studies, The Shark Sessions, describes the natural behaviour of sharks in detail.