Shark

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Shark
Dean Crawford

Animal series

Shark

Animal
Crow Boria Sax

Series editor: Jonathan Burt Already published Fly Steven Connor Fox Martin Wallen Cat Katharine M. Rogers Cow Hannah Velten Swan Peter Young Forthcoming . . . Duck Victoria de Rijke Rhinoceros Kelly Enright Hare Simon Carnell Moose Kevin Jackson Spider Katja and Sergiusz Michalski Elephant Daniel Wylie Horse ElaineWalker Penguin Stephen Martin

Ant Charlotte Sleigh Tortoise Peter Young Cockroach Marion Copeland Dog Susan McHugh Oyster Rebecca Stott Bear Robert E. Bieder Rat Jonathan Burt Parrot Paul Carter Snake Drake Stutesman Bee Claire Preston Tiger Susie Green Whale Joe Roman Falcon Helen Macdonald Peacock Christine E. Jackson

Shark
Dean Crawford

reaktion books

Published by

reaktion booksltd
33 Great Sutton Street London ec1v 0dx, uk www.reaktionbooks.co.uk First published 2008 Copyright © Dean Crawford 2008 All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers. Printed and bound inChina British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Crawford, Dean Shark. – (Animal) 1. Sharks 2. Animals and civilization I. Title 597.3 isbn-13: 978 1 86189 325 3

Contents

1 2 3 4 5 6

Introduction 7 A Timeless Design 21 Deities and Demons 47 Our Sensational Imaginations 70 Unscrupulous Lawyers and Other Predators 98 No Adventure in the Fin Trade 115 Useful in a Deeper Sense 133 Timeline152 References 154 Bibliography 161 Associations and Websites 165 Acknowledgements 171 Photo Acknowledgments 173 Index 175

Introduction

Sharks inspire terror out of all proportion to their actual threat. We may wonder what they did to earn such special attention. Did they chomp down on our prehistoric ancestors often enough to create an evolutionary memory, a kind of monster profile in thelower cortices of our brains? Or are we exercising that special combination of loathing and fascination that humans reserve for a predator at least as well designed and widely feared in its watery realm as we are on the land? Sharks are so other that they don’t even have bones, but cartilage. Many shark species are ovophageous, meaning that they eat their siblings in the womb. When sharks feed,they shutter or roll back their eyes, giving them – to our eyes – an ecstatic expression. Their wriggling white bellies look obscene. Whether from terror or excitement or some combination of the two, we all thrill to the sight of a dorsal fin cutting through the water. And yet, majestic as they may seem when glimpsed in the ocean, sharks are a challenge to love. Unlike wise old whales with theirmournful tunes, or baby harp seals with their pleading eyes, some sharks are genuine monsters. Great white sharks weigh between one and two tonnes, more than an average car. Never mind that vehicles slaughter tens of thousands of us every year while sharks on average kill fewer than twenty worldwide. Sharks just look like thugs with those hunting-around

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eyes. Seen from the front, white sharksappear to be grinning. Then they turn to look at you with their flat, black, fathomless, alien eyes. Sharks’ behavioural habits are foreign to our tender mammalian sensibilities. All sharks are cannibals. Female sharks come equipped with a special mechanism to repress their hunger during and immediately after childbirth – otherwise they would eat their own young. The white shark’s favourite foodis not family members, but the baby elephant seal, too small to defend itself with tusks or claws, too naive to know to avoid the sharks lurking along the bottom just off the beaches where elephant seals breed and give birth and the young must put to sea to survive. What is it about sharks, especially the larger ones, that evokes the juvenile in some of us, the testosterone in others and awe in...
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