Shark Brains Are Similar To Our Own
October 31, 2012

Shark Repellent Could Come From Research Into Similarities Between Shark And Human Brains

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

New research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution indicates that the infamous shark from the movie Jaws may have more in common with police chief Martin Brody than previously thought.

The Australian government announced a new catch-and-kill policy for sharks last month after great white sharks killed five surfers and swimmers this past year. The government also said it would be funding research into other measures to develop technology to try and repel them.

The latest issue of the journal, The Nervous System of Cartilaginous Fishes, focuses on the latest comparative and evolutionary research on the brains of sharks and other cartilaginous fish, like rays and sawfish.

"Sharks, and their relatives, represent the earliest jawed vertebrates," University of Western Australia shark researcher Kara Yopak, who is the editor for the journal's current issue, said in a statement. "Despite broad divergence, there are a number of common features of the brain that evolved at least as early as cartilaginous fishes, and persist across all vertebrates."

Scientists found during their research that shark brains are similar to those of humans. With this research, it could bring new methods of developing "repellants" for the monstrous fish.

"Great white sharks have quite large parts of the brain associated with their visual input, with implications for them being much more receptive to repellents targeting visual markers," Yopak said in the statement.

Understanding how the shark's brain works could be vital for scientists developing new deterrents.

"A shark may recognize a poisonous sea-snake's markings and swim away, for example, and we can use this information to cue a response," she said. "It's about understanding how their neurobiology affects their behavior."

Sharks are widely thought to have small brains; however, the latest research shows that sharks and other cartilaginous fish have highly developed sensory systems and relatively large brains.

"This information may direct researchers' efforts towards targeting the visual system when developing repellents for sharks," Yopak said in the statement. "Another of the papers suggests that the cerebellum - which appeared first in early sharks - is an important evolutionary advancement that has paved the way for some aspects of higher neural function in vertebrates, including humans," Dr Yopak said.