The smile of shark

Oceans Winner of Nature's Best 2008/Lemon Shark by Bruce Yates

In the summer of 2007, Bruce Yates, an amateur eco-shutterbug, was shooting lemon sharks on the Caribbean Sea. Among the photos, he found a lemon shark posing opening its mouth full of sharp teeth and smiling astutely. Smiling? Yes, I say the shark is smiling. We put aside the question that whether it is a real smiling expression or not, the shark really seems being smiling.

Let us pretend that the shark is smiling. However, why? It may be a little difficulty to answer. Even the gelotologists (the first time I see this world) haven’t reached a consensus on the laughable question that why people smile. You may be smiling now, however, being serious, there is really a study called gelotology, which is

a study of laughter and its effects on the body from a psychological and physiological perspective.

We sometimes simply think that we smile because of being happy. However, the truth about smiling is complex in fact.

Smiling without showing teeth was required for Chinese anicent women

In Chinese traditional culture, it was forbidden to grin and you should smile without showing your teeth. Accurately, this etiquette was only applicable to Chinese women. In fact, within the most mammals’ “languages”, showing teeth is the signal of terrifying or attacking. Wolf often shows its teeth before prey or enemies, which is the same as dog.

According to the research and observation on the babies, we humankind smiles for the first time about 3 to 4 months after our birth and we only smile to mom for the first time. The best way to make baby laugh big is to throw him/her up and then catch him/her. Why we cannot help laughing if someone tickles us? The truth is that the laugh is just the fear coming from the unfamiliar touch. You would not laugh if you tickle yourself unless you have a rich imagination.

Whether the animal can smile or not depends on how we define the smile. The zoologists have already found that large primates such as apes and monkeys have the similar reaction like the smile of human beings. The same as human beings, chimpanzees like to tickle the armpit and belly. Due to the different structure of vocal cord, the chimpanzee smile with different sound from human beings. If you really want to know what the chimpanzee’s laughter sounds like, you can listen to the laughter by Sheldon in the The Big Bang Theory. In addition, you may have heard your dog’s laugh and you didn’t realize it. Dog’s laughter just likes the stronger and faster breath.

In fact, the animals that can “smile” are more low-grade than we imagine, just like the mice, they would be addicted to tickling and do the rough-and-tumble play just like the children. However, we cannot hear the laughter of mice because it is ultrasonic wave.

Getting back to the shark above, we can be sure that its smile is just like the style of Obama’s ceremonial smile. It means that the expression of the shark is just like smiling. In addition, we are easily cheated by the animals with smiling appearance just like dolphin. Nature gives the dolphin a curved mouth which looks like a fixed smile, which make dolphin popular in human culture. However, the fact is that promiscuity and indiscriminately slaughter are common among dolphins.

Dolphin has a natural smiling expression


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