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The Animal Answer Guide

Gene Helfman and George H. Burgess

Publication Year: 2014

Answering every conceivable question about sharks, authors Gene Helfman and George H. Burgess describe the fascinating biology, behavior, diversity, and cultural importance of sharks (there are more than 1,000 species worldwide), their close relations to skates and rays, and their critical role in healthy ecosystems. Helfman and Burgess take readers on a round-the-world tour of shark habitats, which include oceans as well as lakes and even rivers (as far up the Mississippi as St. Louis). They describe huge, ferocious predators like (Great) White and Tiger sharks and species such as Basking and Whale sharks that feed on microscopic prey yet can grow to lengths of more than 40 feet. The mysterious and powerful Greenland shark, the authors explain, reaches a weight of 2,200 pounds on a diet of seal flesh. Small (less than 2-foot long) Cookiecutter sharks attack all of these and even take a chunk out of the occasional swimmer. Despite our natural fascination with sharks, we have become their worst enemy. Many shark species are in serious decline and a number are threatened with extinction as a result of overfishing and persecution. Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide presents a perfect mix of current science, history, anthropology, intriguing facts, and gripping photographs. Whether your fascination with sharks stems from fear or curiosity, your knowledge of these animals will improve immensely when you consult this book.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-x

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pp. xi-xii

Knowledge about sharks and their relatives grows daily. Long before this information appears in the scientific literature, it is generously shared with other shark lovers and researchers. Many of the facts and ideas presented here fall into this category of new, verified information that has not yet quite become publicly accessible. In addition, much “information” about ...

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pp. xiii-xx

George Burgess and I both became fascinated with sharks at an early age. My shark “career” began when I was maybe 9 or 10. Someone landed a Basking Shark at the Santa Monica Pier in southern California. The Los Angeles Times ran an article with a photo, including an interview with a biologist from the California Department of Fish and Game, Dr. John Fitch. At my father’s encouragement, I wrote Dr. Fitch a letter that I’m sure ...

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1 Introducing Sharks, Skates, Rays, and Chimaeras

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pp. 1-22

This book is about chondrichthyan fishes (chondros ichthys, literally “cartilaginous fishes”), a term that includes the subgroups of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) and holocephalans (chimaeras), and is organized around common and not-so-common questions about these spectacular animals....

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2 Form and Function of Sharks

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pp. 23-52

Sharks live in the slow lane. They have what we consider to be very slow metabolisms and are built to conserve energy in almost all aspects of their lives, especially when compared with us or even with bony fishes. Their fins and scales and body shape, as discussed in questions in this chapter, are ...

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3 Shark Colors

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pp. 53-67

Most animals that live up in the water have dark tops and light bottoms. This is true not just of sharks and rays but also of dolphins, killer whales, penguins, and even crocodiles. The coloration is known as “countershading.” Countershading is adaptive because it makes the animal blend into the open-water background against which it is seen by predators and prey...

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4 Shark Behavior

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pp. 68-83

As a rule, sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras tend to be solitary animals. When they come together outside of the breeding season (on reproduction, see chapter 6), it’s most likely a result of the mutual attraction of individuals to food. So, for example, White Sharks will gather to feed on dead whales; Gray Reef and Silky sharks will home in on injured fish; and Basking and...

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5 Shark Ecology

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pp. 84-111

Although some sharks, such as Bull and Bonnetheads, are comparative stay-at-homes (see “Are any sharks territorial?” in chapter 4), others travel long distances on a regular basis. It isn’t surprising that many long-distance movers (Whale Sharks, Basking Sharks) are large, but even some relatively small sharks such as Spiny Dogfish will cross entire ocean basins. Migratory...

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6 Reproduction and Development

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pp. 112-134

We know a great deal about certain aspects of elasmobranch reproduction. Or at least we know much about the things that can be studied by dissecting dead fish. We know comparatively less about the behavior and ecology of reproduction, although our understanding is growing....

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7 Foods and Feeding

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pp. 135-156

The most general statement that can be made about feeding patterns in sharks is that they are opportunists, eating just about anything. Except plants: sharks don’t like brussels sprouts, perhaps attesting to their intelligence. Actually, chondrichthyan fishes don’t like any vegetables or fruits. They are as a group entirely carnivorous, eating all types of marine animal...

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8 Sharks and Humans

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pp. 157-169

This question actually has two parts: (1) Can sharks be kept in home aquariums? and (2) Do they make good pets? First off, note that the freshwater aquarium fishes called “sharks” are actually minnows, not sharks. Examples are Bala, Redtail, Variegated, Rainbow, and Redfin. They’re lovely, easy to keep, small, and relatively cheap. They get their sharky names because...

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9 Shark Problems (from a human’s viewpoint)

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pp. 170-184

Ask anglers in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, in coastal British Columbia, and in many other places along the U.S. Pacific Coast, and they will tell you that Spiny Dogfish are a real nuisance. If you troll a herring while fishing for salmon, or bottomfish with bait for rockfish or Lingcod, you are much more likely to catch a dogfish than a salmon or ling....

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10 Human Problems (from a shark’s viewpoint)

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pp. 185-201

The recognized worldwide authority on extinction risk in plants and animals is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a United Nations–sanctioned clearinghouse for such information. The IUCN publishes a Red List of endangered plants and animals that it updates regularly. In 2012, the IUCN had assessed the status of 1,090 chondrichthyan...

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11 Sharks in Stories, Media, and Literature

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pp. 202-220

The sea is a dangerous and mysterious place and an understandable source of myths and legends. Sharks undoubtedly played a part in the stories of “sea monsters” who gobbled up sailors. Without photographic equipment to document a brief, tragic event, descriptions of the perpetrators were likely to be inaccurate if not embellished, fueled by the imaginations...

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12 “Sharkology”

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pp. 221-226

Unlike ichthyology—the study of fishes—there is no accepted term for the study of sharks. Condrichthyology covers all the groups but is kind of clumsy. Elasmobranchology would work, but it excludes the holocephalan ratfishes (and is even clumsier). Most shark researchers think of themselves as just that, shark researchers, or as ichthyologists who focus on sharks and related fishes....

Appendix A: Sharks, Skates, Rays, and Chimaeras of the World

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pp. 227-229

Appendix B: Organizations That Promote the Study and Conservation of Sharks

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pp. 230-231

Appendix C: Websites That Provide Useful and Accurate Information on Sharks

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pp. 232-234


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pp. 235-238


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pp. 239-249

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413105
E-ISBN-10: 1421413108
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413099
Print-ISBN-10: 1421413094

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 34 color photos, 72 halftones, 10 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist