Anecdotal reports have suggested that sharks can learn to associate the sounds of boat engines with food.
Melbourne: Sharks can acquire a taste for jazz music, say scientists who have found that the predators may be much smater than thought.
Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia trained baby Port Jackson sharks to associate music with a food reward. When played a jazz song, the sharks learnt to go to a feeding station for a tasty treat.
"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," said Catarina Vila-Pouca, lead author of the study published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Anecdotal reports have suggested that sharks can learn to associate the sounds of boat engines with food, for example as part of shark cage-diving activities. The study provides evidence that sharks can learn the association relatively quickly.
When it came to differentiating between jazz and classical music, the sharks struggled, said Culum Brown, an associate professor at Macquarie University.
"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," said Brown.
"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," he said.
"Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities - most people see them as mindless, instinctive animals," Vila-Pouca said
"However, they have really big brains and are obviously much smarter than we give them credit for," she said.