Cuddlefish

We don’t usually think of sharks amongst the natural world’s great lovers but perhaps we’re being unfair.

Leopard sharks
Love bites: Leopard sharks in Reef HQ

I have been a volunteer at Reef HQ Aquarium for a couple of years now, and I have gradually been getting into the habit of taking my camera in with me. A little while ago I spotted the female Leopard shark, Leonie, lying back in what looks like bliss while the male, Leo, nibbled her fins amorously.

It is typical courtship behaviour for the species (and it must work well for this couple because they have produced several offspring for Reef HQ) but I do find the parallels with human behaviour amusing and thought-provoking. One recent thought is that we usually say ‘how like people’ animals are when they behave like we do, but that way of putting it is really back to front: people evolved from lower animals, not the other way round, so it’s very likely some of our behaviour patterns, as well as our genes, are inherited from them.

So next time you spot a couple of teenagers kissing and cuddling you might think, ‘How like sharks they are!’

P.S. Crocs do it too: I didn’t know how romantic crocodiles were until I came across this description recently.

How special are we?

Most of us automatically make a huge distinction between people – ‘us’ – and animals – ‘them’ – but is that really justifiable? When we look at the question instead of taking the answer for granted, the gap shrinks dramatically.

First, we are compelled to realise that we are animals, big monkeys in fact, so the distinction is between ‘people’ and ‘other animals’. That step may seem small now but it split England right down the middle 150 years ago Continue reading “How special are we?”