I am an extremely avid shark-lover. I hope to become a marine biologist specializing in sharks. Sharks have complex brains and are the smartest of all the fish, so this question has been bothering me ever since I was a little kid:
Do sharks have feelings?

No one knows for sure, but I think it is difficult to project human-style feelings on to another animals. Human feelings are typically conveyed by body language, facial features and language, each of which is quite human-specific. In our very closest non-human relatives, chimpanzee, we can justify equating particular identified emotions to those that we have because of our similarity. The further you get (and sharks are quite far removed from mammals) the more difficult it is to justify.

I think that it is pretty safe to say that sharks feel pain, but I'm not comfortable taking it much further than that. Even assuming that they do have analagous emotions or motivations, I feel that we would be unable to recognise equivalents in ourselves, aside from the basic pain/hunger/mating impulses that seem to be common to all animals.

I agree with John, especially about extrapolating 'feelings' from humans to fish (or vica versa!). It is perhaps not surprising that many general traits such as some 'behaviour', stress and cardiovascular responses and water conservation mediated by hormones such as vasopressin have been conserved through evolution and are present in fish.

As to fish feeling pain there has been a lot written in the lay press, e.g., see - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ … eated.html as one of many examples, and scientific literature, e.g., see - http://www.nature.com/news/fish-have-fe … o-1.14758. Fish are clearly capable of associative 'learning' (e.g., establishing a relationship between a stimulus and a behavioural response) but this can occur without conscious awareness, even in humans.

One line of thought is that fish can respond to noxious/injurious stimuli with stress (e.g., avoidance) responses, also present in unicellular forms with no nervous systems and primitive invertebrates that have no brain, which may not be associated with 'emotional' stress involving conscious awareness. It's certainly an area under active scientific investigation and important to the health and well-being of fish and other animals.

Last edited by Steve Lolait (29th Sep 2014 11:32:52)