The Secret Life of Sharks

Bookshelf: The Secret Life of Sharks

The Secret Life of Sharks – A. Peter Klimley

The Secret Life of Sharks
The Secret Life of Sharks

This book is closer to the book on sharks I’ve been longing for all my life but still isn’t quite it… Klimley has impeccable academic credentials, however, and what a pleasure to read a popular science book actually written by an actual scientist

Half the book details his research on hammerhead sharks (new addition to my bucket list has to be seeing a school of hammerheads – or even one!), and the second half describes his work with great whites. Much of his work with the latter was conduced at the Farallon Islands off San Fransisco, the same location described by Susan Casey in her distressing account of her singlehanded demolition of the shark research project there, The Devil’s Teeth.

Not three¬† sentences into his description of the environment and food web at the Farallones, and Klimley demonstrates why it’s better to let scientists write about their work than bimbo reporters from O Magazine. Casey’s assertion – which I found fascinating – that most of the attacks in the Farallones take place at high tide – lacks one crucial fact: at high tide, many of the seals and sea lions are forced off their rocky perches into the sea.

Klimley has reconstructed much of the action from his field notebooks, research papers and in some cases video footage taken during his research efforts. The book is dry in places, but I devoured it for the insights it provides into – particularly – great white sharks. He describes efforts to keep them in captivity, much as Ellis and McCosker do in their 1995 work, and also reveals much about the behaviour of juvenile great whites which was new to me.

His descriptions of how sharks (of all kinds) use magnetic fields to navigate are fascinating and I was impressed all over again with these incredibly efficient predators whose bodies are so well put together for survival at the top of the food chain.

Get a copy here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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