The Encyclopedia of Sharks
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The Encyclopedia of Sharks

2.3 3
by Steve Parker

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You have just got to love a colorful, large-format encyclopedia on sharks, and this is one of the best.
--American Reference Books Annual

An up-to-date encyclopedia of the world's most ancient predators.

The Encyclopedia of Sharks is a richly illustrated and fact-filled reference on all the world's species of sharks.

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You have just got to love a colorful, large-format encyclopedia on sharks, and this is one of the best.
--American Reference Books Annual

An up-to-date encyclopedia of the world's most ancient predators.

The Encyclopedia of Sharks is a richly illustrated and fact-filled reference on all the world's species of sharks. The author debunks the fearful myths and fierce legends, providing straightforward facts and the latest research on sharks. More than 200 striking photographs show sharks in their natural habitats. Detailed drawings illustrate the anatomical features unique to sharks, such as their fearsome but short-lived teeth.

The book includes authoritative and updated information on:

  • Evolution and design of the shark
  • Classifications and orders
  • Understanding the shark
  • The life of the shark -- how it feeds, breeds and migrates
  • Shark "supersense" -- how it survives in the aquatic environment
  • The need for protection and conservation -- how sharks are now endangered by over fishing and "finning."

Also included is a 50-page comprehensive, all-color section featuring and explaining the world's most important breeds.

Through its lively text, spectacular photography, and charts, maps and illustrations, The Encyclopedia of Sharks will encourage an understanding of these complex creatures.

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Editorial Reviews

Book Review Digest
[Review of earlier edition:] The authors have succeeded admirably. ...this will be a good start for readers interested in sharks.
American Reference Books Annual
You have just got to love a colorful, large-format encyclopedia on sharks, and this is one of the best.
— Mark A. Wilson
American Reference Books Annual, Volume 35 - Mark Wilson
[Review of earlier edition:] This well-illustrated, well-written, and attractive book will help bring balance to our views of these creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit.
American Reference Books Annual - Mark A. Wilson
You have just got to love a colorful, large-format encyclopedia on sharks, and this is one of the best for a general audience. It is attractive, easy to browse, beautifully illustrated, accurate, and with enough detail to satisfy anyone curious about these extraordinary animals.... There are spectacular photographs here of rare sharks or sharks in unusual settings. The shark biology articles have detailed anatomical drawings and photographs, often highlighting what we do not yet know about these fish. Each article has a summary at the beginning so it is enjoyable to browse through the pages in any order.... This book is recommended for any library with natural history collections. It is accessible at different levels to all readers.
Todays Librarian
Charts, maps and diagrams highlight the fact-filled text ... Readers are left marveled, amazed and wanting to read more. Children also love this book for the cool, scary, pictures.
Book Report
This book will be a good resource for the student who is searching for a more in-depth discussion ... Recommended.
Well illustrated with photographs, color drawings, maps, and diagrams, the text is basic yet informative.
Library Journal
Enhanced by many photographs, sidebars and charts ... the writing style is aimed at high school and nonscientist adults.
Today's Librarian
Readers are left marveled, amazed and wanting to read more. Children also love this book for the cool, scary, pictures.
Children's Literature - Joan Carris
Well, the authors aren't kidding with the title. Our questions about sharks are sure to be answered and illustrated somewhere in this amazing one hundred ninety-two-page reference book. Readers learn that popular media images and myths about sharks are almost always the opposite of the truth. And the truth is endlessly intriguing. Sharks have been evolving, after all, for over 400 million years, far longer than we fallible mortals have. It has an excellent index and glossary. This book is printed on heavy, glossy paper and is a winning book in all respects.
In this work, a large collection of photographs, drawings, and charts is held together by a confusing narrative of unverified "facts." The writing is imprecise: Sodium and chloride are described as salts (p. 84), blood as a distributor of vitamins and minerals from digested food hormones (p. 80), the sleeper shark as lazy (p. 65), and the cookie-cutter shark as a parasite (p. 147). The section on science lists only Jacques Cousteau and the photographers Ron and Valerie Taylor. There are neither citations nor a list of suggested readings. The organization is chaotic, and shark classification is presented both early (on p. 47) and on unnumbered pages at the end. Better alternatives to the Parkers' book would be Sharks in Question, by Victor G. Springer and Joy P. Gold, a 1989 Smithsonian Institution Press publication, and Sharks, edited by John D. Stevens from Facts on File Publications (1988). Both books contain extensive bibliographies, are expertly written, and are well organized. Stevens's book is as well illustrated as the Parkers'. Another good value is "The Book of Sharks, by Richard Ellis, published in 1975 by Grosset and Dunlap. That book contains the author's wonderful paintings and a section on shark scientists that might be inspirational to young people. Questionable, Grades 7-12, General Audience. REVIEWER: William Aron (University of Washington)

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Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date:
Edition description:
New edition, revised and updated
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.70(d)

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Studying Sharks

The best place to study sharks is among them, in their natural marine habitat. Advances in diving gear and techniques, hand-held and remote camera technology, recording, tagging systems, satellite tracking, ROVs (underwater remote-operated vehicles) and other fields make studying sharks increasingly rewarding and productive.

Gradually, we can watch sharks in ever more detail and get closer to understanding what makes them tick. One of the first people to attempt serious underwater studies of sharks was the late Jacques Yves Cousteau (1910-1997). With his teams of underwater photographers, film-makers, explorers and scientists, he carried out much original research in the 1950s and 1960s. Cousteau helped to design the first scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) equipment and pioneered the use of shark cages for observation and filming.

Shark's eye view
The "crittercam" instruments are worn by wild animals for a time then retrieved. Consisting of video cameras and other information-gathering equipment, they are used on various land and ocean creatures. The "crittercam" is attached to the temporarily captured or securely held shark. When the shark is released, the camera records what it sees and where it goes. After a set time the camera strap disintegrates or unlinks, and the camera then floats to the surface, emits a radio signal and is recovered. Research around Australia, North America and South Africa is revealing the behavior of species such as great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks.

Shark tags vary from simple plastic clip-on versions, usually attached to a fin, to sophisticated tracking devices that emit radio signals and can be detected by boats or even satellites. Some of these radio emitters are safely "force-fed" into the shark, allowing researchers to follow it for several days, until nature takes its course and the device is expelled.

In the northwest Atlantic's Cooperative Shark Tagging Program, scientists, sports anglers and commercial fishing boats work together. They do not bring their catches back but measure the shark, fit it with a numbered tag, then let it go. If it is recaught in a different place, the distance and direction it has traveled and the amount it has grown are recorded. The tags have revealed that some sharks, such as the sandbar shark, mature very late and have few offspring. The conclusion is that when a population is fished out, it will take a long time to recover.

Threats to Sharks

Estimates of the numbers of sharks killed by human activity each year vary from around 50 million to more than 100 million -- that's three dead sharks every second. It compares to around 8-12 human fatalities annually in the other direction.

The threats to sharks vary hugely, as they do with many wild creatures in their natural environments. A great challenge is that we can be presented with eye-catching images of logged devastated rainforests, drained cracked wetlands and oil-polluted shorelines to raise awareness and gain momentum for conservation. But because of visual limits, we cannot encapsulate the threats to the undersea habitat into such telling images.

A great threat to most sharks is the fishing industry and overfishing in general. Some fishing deliberately targets sharks, from hammerheads to dogfish, by various means such as curtain nets, trawls and hooked lines. The sharks are caught for their flesh, liver, oil and other products. One of the most controversial practices is finning (see panel on facing page).

Another problem is bycatch, where sharks are caught incidentally while targeting other fish. Large predatory sharks naturally congregate around schools of prey fish -- and these are also being sought by fishing fleets. The vast nets indiscriminately catch them all. Trapped sharks may be released, but by then they are often fatally injured.

Today's industrialized fishing fleets are so efficient that fish stocks of dozens of species are falling around the world, and some regions are almost fished out. Sharks depend on these types of fish as their food. As the fish disappear, the sharks go hungry and are less likely to grow and breed. Also, as traditionally caught food species of fish become more scarce, commercial fishing turns increasingly to sharks.

Pollution and angling
Some sharks prefer inshore waters, often around bays and estuaries. These are the places where pollution builds up, with sewage, waste and agricultural and industrial chemicals washed into the sea from rivers or inshore effluent pipes. The chemicals enter the food chains, and as smaller fish are eaten by bigger fish these chemicals become more and more concentrated in their bodies, a process known as bioamplification. Sharks are often among the top predators of their habitat and accumulate the highest levels.

Sports angling has also been a threat to the large, desirable sharks such as makos, which put up a spectacular fight when hooked.

Strategies for Conservation

Conservation campaigns picturing attractive and "cuddly" creatures, such as dolphins, pandas, baby seals, and even lion cubs, are designed to arouse public sympathy and support.

A similar campaign using the image of a fearsome shark may be less likely to succeed, but the principles are equivalent. All animals should command our respect as fellow inhabitants of our planet.

Improving the shark's image
Conservation depends heavily on education. A few species of sharks are known to attack humans, true. The same can be said of the tiger -- yet there is widespread global support for tiger conservation.

Responsible education of young people at schools and colleges can obviously help, especially in nature, biology and wildlife topics. Television, books, magazines and websites can also inform about the shark's fascinating behavior and lifestyle.

Safely behind glass
Modern aquaria and sea-life centers contribute enormously to public awareness of aquatic life. Spectacular exhibits in giant tanks with walk-through tunnels allow people to stand inches away from one of the most deeply feared creatures. Most tanks feature a variety of sharks, but particularly sand tiger and sandbar sharks, which seem to take well to captivity yet look sufficiently big and frightening. Accompanying displays, commentaries and videotapes explain shark bodies and behavior.

The shark show
Shark shows truly bring education alive. At the reef, the sharks learn by simple association and habituation that the noise of the boat engine and the splash of people means food. Tourists marvel and take photographs as guards feed the sharks. Such demonstrations can certainly help to change the shark's image, but they depend on a thorough understanding of shark behavior, and there are potential problems. The general wildlife of the reef is disrupted and more sharks may be attracted to the area, which is often near a popular beach resort. It has been suggested that local sharks could even lose their own natural fear of us and come to associate humans with food.

National and international efforts
National governments, regional organizations and international authorities can be persuaded to look after the welfare of marine life and develop strategies for conservation. There is huge potential for fishing quotas and restrictions, which would not only help save sharks but also safeguard almost exhausted stocks of fished-out commercial species. However, many cultural differences remain, such as the popularity of shark's fin soup in certain regions.

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Meet the Author

Steve Parker worked at London's Natural History Museum and is the author of more than 100 books.

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