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Great White Shark.

This folio-size volume, profusely illustrated with reproductions of old photographs and paintings, excellent color photographs by Al Giddings and others, as well as the handsome paintings of Richard Ellis, provides the general reader with a rich background of information about one of the most awesome fish in the sea--the Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias. This much maligned and controversial predator is so rarely seen today that many fear it is destined for extinction unless effective measures for its protection are adopted. And therein lies the paradox; in the 1950s to 1970s, we were concerned about protecting humans from sharks--today, because of overfishing and the shark's low reproductive rate, we are concerned about protecting sharks from humans--and the Great White Shark is number one on the list of endangered fish.

The 12 chapters of this entertaining volume cover a wealth of information on Carcharodon--much of it admittedly gleaned from the literature, because opportunities to see this great fish alive, or work with it experimentally in captivity, are very limited. Both Ellis and McCosker have observed Carcharodon in its native waters and have been impressed with its great power and majestic appearance.

Following the introduction, the authors put Carcharodon in perspective with its close and distant relatives. An ancient relative, Carcharodon megalodon, is believed to have reached a length of 50 feet and weighed 20 tons. Today, only its fossil teeth remain to testify to its size and presence in the Miocene era, 15 to 20 million years ago.

Subsequent chapters discuss the present Great White Shark's size (up to 21 feet long), its anatomy, physiology, and reproduction, revealing an array of fascinating facts. For example, it is believed to be one of the few fish able to elevate its body temperature as much as 5|degrees~ to 7|degrees~ Fahrenheit above that of the ambient water; it gives birth to few offspring every other year and is probably ophagus: the first developing pups probably devour their siblings in utero; and as for its food and feeding, in 1982, Francis G. Carey estimated it can survive for 45 days on as little as 66 pounds of whale meat.

Very few Great White Sharks have ever been kept in captivity and none has survived very long. A 13-footer was displayed in Hawaii's Marineland in 1961 and lived only 24 hours. An 8-foot male Great White displayed in 1962 in Marineland (Florida) lived 36 hours, and a 7.5-foot youngster was kept in the California Steinhart Aquarium for three and one-half days before it was released off the Farralon Islands, 26 miles at sea.

The Great White primarily frequents temperate waters, and those worldwide locations are well-depicted in map form in Great White Shark. Naturally, the Great Whites seem to prefer places where seals, sea lions, and fur seals abound--as in the waters of South Africa, New Zealand, South Australia, and off the coasts of Chile and central California.

Chapter 8 deals with Great White Shark attacks on humans, which for all the publicity they receive, are relatively rare. Only 60 documented cases are recorded, 16 of which were fatal. Other predatory sharks, including the oceanic whitetip Carcharhinus longimanus, the bull shark Carcharhinus leucas, and the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier, are probably more often the culprit in attacks on humans than the Great White. For those who are still timid about going to sea because of memories of the movie Jaws, this book should go far to allay their fears. And, for those who admire the majesty and power of the Great White Shark, this volume will reinforce their desire to protect and preserve it.

Opportunities to observe this impressive fish in captivity or in its native waters are now rare indeed. This leads the authors to conclude, "...if this book has a purpose beyond exposition, explanation, and entertainment, it is to make very clear the plight of this great fish...|for~ it may be in danger of disappearing forever."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gilbert, Perry W.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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