Global Perspectives on the Biology & Life History of the White Shark

Bookshelf: Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark

Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark – Michael L. Domeier (editor)

Global Perspectives on the Biology & Life History of the White Shark
Global Perspectives on the Biology & Life History of the White Shark

This book emerged from the International White Shark Symposium which took place in Hawaii 2010. It’s 500-odd pages of scientific papers which I read in a burst of activity over a period of about two weeks. It’s not light, easy reading, but the rewards for ploughing through it (or even just dipping into it) are immense for the shark enthusiast.

There are three sections: Biology, Behaviour and Physiology; Migratory Patterns and Habitat Use; and Population Monitoring, Policy and Review. The second and third sections contain papers that are very region-specific (including South Africa – these were obviously the ones that interested me the most), but in many cases the behaviour observed off Australia, or in the Pacific gives clues as to the general habits of these sharks.

There are several papers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California about their juvenile white shark exhibits, and a detailed description of Cape Town’s pioneering Shark Spotters Program. There are several papers from Australia, where the response to shark bites on water users has not been as coherent as it has been in Cape Town. There are also papers based on research done at and around the Farallon Islands, subject of The Devil’s Teeth.

A general impression of shark science gained from reading this book is how difficult it is. These creatures travel vast distances, and can’t really be followed or observed for most of their lives (as you could a gorilla, or an elephant). Tagging them is expensive, and only a small sample of a population can ever be monitored in this way. Lethal methods, such as shark nets, give up carcasses which can be dissected for information on stomach contents, growth rates and the like – but there are limits to this kind of research. Moreover, not only is this manner of obtaining data morally repugnant to many people, it is risky business when the creature you’re studying is slow growing, long lived, and scarce.

I’m not going to use this space to describe everything useful and interesting that I learned, but rather a series of follow up posts in which I’ll highlight papers with particularly gripping material. If you’re looking for less serious science, but equally excellent shark material and no less authoritative authorship, you could try Peter Klimley’s Secret Life of Sharks.

You can purchase it here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here. It’s quite expensive, be warned.

Published by

Clare

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.

One thought on “Bookshelf: Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark”

Leave a Reply