Guess they’re even more sophisticated than we thought.

By Marisa Spyker
July 20, 2018
(c) Costa007 | Getty Images

Up here on dry land, our Spotify playlists might be filled with a mish-mash of Jimmy Buffet and Justin Timberlake, or Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry. Under the sea, however, musical tastes are a bit more discerning—at least if you’re a shark. According to research out of Australia, sharks seem to be particularly drawn to the rhythms of jazz music more so than the structured sounds of classical.

But don’t expect Jaws to be donning a fedora and sipping Sidecars anytime soon. The study, conducted by researchers from Sydney’s Macquarie University, was intended more to determine whether sharks could associate artificial sounds with food rewards.

For the experiment, scientists trained Port Jackson sharks to swim to one end of a tank for a treat whenever the sounds of a specific jazz ditty played through underwater speakers. Five sharks learned to associate the music with food, however, when the same experiment was conducted with a classical tune, the association didn’t stick; sharks seemed to be stumped by sounds of classical. (Sorry, Mozart.)

Despite the amusing inferences we can make over the musical tastes of sharks, the research is more importantly a step forward in understanding the cognitive abilities and personality differences in sharks.

"Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities—most people see them as mindless, instinctive animals,” says Catarina Vila-Pouca, the lead author on the study.  "However, they have really big brains and are obviously much smarter than we give them credit for.”

"Gaining a better understanding of this will help grow positive public opinion of sharks and may shift public and political will towards their conservation."