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Turns out you can train a shark to like jazz.
Researchers at Australia’s Macquarie University have shown that the animal has a more discerning taste in music than you’d anticipate.
The study, published in , shows that baby Port Jackson sharks can learn to associate music with food. If played jazz, the sharks would swim over to a feeding station to receive their delicious reward.
“Sound is really important for aquatic animals, it travels well under water and fish use it to find food, hiding places and even to communicate,” Catarina Vila-Pouca, the study’s lead author, said in a statement online.
Very little is known about the ability of elasmobranchs — that’s sharks, rays and skates — and their ability to distinguish between sounds. Some anecdotal reports suggest that sharks are attracted to the sound of boat engines, associating it with food, much like Pavlov’s Dog.
While five out of the eight sharks in the study were able to identify the sound of jazz, it’s much more difficult trying to get them to discern between classical and jazz music.
The researchers used the two genres of music to tell the sharks to swim to opposite corners of the tank, but it merely just confused them.
“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,” Culum Brown, an associate professor at the university, added.
“The task is harder than it sounds, because the sharks had to learn that different locations were associated with a particular genre of music, which was then paired with a food reward. Perhaps with more training they would have figured it out.”
At the very least, the study helps to change the perception of the learning abilities of the humble shark.