Animal Studies Bibliography
Owen, David. 2009. Shark: In Peril in the Sea. Allen & Unwin.
(Summarized by Megan Shelly, Animal Studies Program, Michigan State University)
Introduction: Authors shark story
The author begins this experience with the recall of a Google search, in which he typed in “evolution of batoids”, and google replied, “did you mean evolution of bastards?” He goes on from there to expand the reality that not only are formal terminology not recognized, fundamental definitions seem arbitrary with the constant revision, lack of record, and debate surrounding shark evolution. Due to the fact that very few people actually study sharks, public information is continually sourced via television, documentaries, and internet videos, all offering notably distorted versions of what a shark is and does.
Like many reports regarding sharks, he relates them to Hollywood and the Jaw phenomena as well as a list of unique and revealing book titles such as “Bloody Terror” and more intriguing instances such as “The Man Who Rode Sharks”, possibly identifying the oddity of a potential bonding experience between man and shark. The irony of the Jaws phenomena ultimately contributing to the shark conservation effort via the creator of Jaws himself and an audience recognizing the slant characterized in the movie.
The popularization of ancient practices is cited as now being one of the greatest threats to the existence of sharks. Shark finning has led to the monumental reduction of shark populations and has become a major concern of environmental entities, which are likewise concerned with the elasmobranch exploitation that is a by product of commercial fishing (leading to around 100 million tonnes of typically discarded by catch).
The author goes on to uniquiely describe the behavior of sharks as exuding intelligence and behavior that leads to an instinctive feeling that the sharks are watching and assessing humans, even that they “know” them.
SHARK ATTACK: Controversy, Reality, Response
This chapter addresses our totally incorrect perception of sharks, and the completely off base notion that predatory sharks are in a constant state of hunger and are therefore reflexively conditioned to blindly attack other living things. The very word attack is described as misleading, as it suggests they are savage and indiscriminate (The author correlates the intent of the work “attack” to a pit bull attacking child as being accurate, but not so with the shark). Meanwhile, the media uses chilling words to describe shark encounters, the same encounters that would be described as incidents or interactions by those qualified to actually assess shark behavior.
Historical misconceptions are pointed out including the former belief that sharks’ jaws were not strong enough to cause significant damage to human bodies, and furthermore, that they were of a cowardly nature.
The author covers the controversial issue regarding the common belief that sharks mistake humans for other forms of prey, as this would negate the ability to conclude that they target human beings, which is a theory people like to hold on to. Characteristics such as reflective jewelry, surfboard/wetsuit resembling seal, etc, are described as being the common characteristics that would confuse sharks, but in reality sharks have prey identifying capabilities that are extremely well developed and the notion is considered faulty by respected ichthyologists. It would be more accurate to suggest that they are investigating with leisurely behavior, which may include an exploratory bite (from the perspective of the shark) that is laced with the possibility of severe damage and fatal injury to human beings, but lacks the intent attributed to the encounter. A specific incident of a surfer who turned his head to find a huge shark biting his surf board, yet ignored his dangling legs is illustrates the stealth nature and curiosity of sharks over the vicious irrepressible alternative.
Of shark attacks, the author explains the belief that cluster attacks may be attributed to a sick/disoriented shark staying in an area for a prolonged period of time. Of 96 alleged incidents, 62 were classified as unprovoked, 4 of which were fatal. (average of 5 unprovoked per year). ISAF has a questionnaire for victims and witnesses to attempt to better classify what type of shark as well as document and analyze the behavior. Many unprovoked attacks are the result of human carelessness, not stalking sharks, as most prone areas have protection nets and bait hooks in place in designated areas for recreational use. Human fatalities are caused by the dept of the test bite, humans are not, nutritionally speaking, of interest to sharks. A case is noted in which a man was half swallowed, but not “eaten”;
another in which despite consequent blood loss, a feeding frenzy did not follow among surrounding sharks. Headlines often suggest an increase in attacks, yet there has been no such thing in the united states.
Offered by the author is a comical response by a reader to a dramatic shark headline who points out the unrealistic nature of the public's reaction to shark encounters. The man replied, “A man puts a bloody great hook into the mouth of a shark, drags it thought the water with every intent of killing it, and hauls it out of the water, probably with an even bigger gaff hook. When the shark has the impertinence to fight back, we have a million news stories about a “shark attack”, I’d call it just deserts.
THE WAY OF THE SHARK ROADS: Sharks and Indigenous Societies
Difficulty in documenting the history of sharks is extremely difficult, as sharks’ cartilage based composition leads to a patchy and inconclusive fossil record, which means that in most cases, dead sharks simply vanish.
Sharks played a notable part in coastal civilizations in terms of being a food source and offer an additional source of documentation as relative meat yields of the species that could be identified led to the belief that elasmobranchs would have been an important target of prehistoric fisheries. Research has been ensued since the late 70s to develop an understanding of the importance of marine resources to prehistoric societies. Australian indigenous populations were likely to have significantly appreciated them as a food source (meat and liver of sting rays) and northern New Zealand tribes had practices of notching dogfish sharks for owner identification and processing.
Inventive preparation techniques (as well as mythological theories) led to extremely efficient use of the whole shark, stretching as far as eating the eyes of man-eating species believing it may enable them to for tell the future)
The Icelandic trial and error method inspires an interesting reaction and is explained as: “texture is somewhat like a piece of fat, the color is a dirty white beige and the taste reminds people of strong cheese with a fishlike aftertaste…it has been known to cause an involuntary gagging reaction” Unique methods of catching sharks have been explored and include large wood hooks as well as an artful method of shark calling and noosing. Both methods are simple, yet very effective, and had been very important to the cultures to which they are tied.
Practical applications of shark body part uses included single teeth set into tools used by tattoo artists, piercing, drilling, sawing, and inventive weapons. Aboriginal cultures mad a unique knife and mimicked shark behavior when putting it to use: “when a man used his weapon he first hid it from view, either in his left armpit or hung by a loop over his forehead so it hung behind his head and neck out of sight of his opponent” at close quarters was used to hack at his opponents flank or buttocks, as is often the location of shark bites. Less violent uses of shark components were shark liver oil, aphrodesiatic qualities, and teeth even used for hair combs. Shark skins could be used as foot wear, and japan still uses shark skin grater for wasabi.
Sharks are also rooted in spiritual and political beliefs that involve sharks as responsible for land formations such as rivers and land formations.
Due to the vast nature of mythology related to shark, European missionaries considered it their duty to destroy these ignorant beliefs and sharks became targets because of shark worship.
As with many instances of past cultures, there are only two shark callers left, with no one to pass the tradition on to. The people engaging in this practice have an exceptional understanding of the sea and its creatures, particularly sharks. Their knowledge is disappearing on the eve of the Western World’s awakening of sharks and their habits, one that would be a great complement to the current trends regarding sharks.
SHARKS AND EUROPEANS
William Shakepeare is noted as the first to equate sharks with grim tidings, but literature and mythology involving sharks is widespread. Greek mythology has instances of punishment where beings were turned into disfigured shark like creatures. Aristotole took accounts and attempted to touch upon shark behavior, and Nordic descriptions of sea dogfish sinking men and biting off soft parts are prevalent in history’s tales and literature.
Noted in this chapter is the interesting correlation and timing of appearance of the words “shark” and “geography” in the English language. Slave trader John Hawkins is theorized as being responsible for the word shark, but there is no certainty as to how the word shark actually came about. Hawkins arrived in London with a specimen that was a thresher shark, but it took the name roughly 100 years to thoroughly catch on. Negative connotations in social situations soon attached themselves to the word shark, such as one defining a social outcast.
Glossopetrae, latin for tongue stones, which were believed to be shards of lightening bolts, or response to St. Paul’s miracle, actually turned out to be shark teeth and complemented Nicolous Steno’s research regarding fundamentals of geology as well as the idea that Malta may have once lain beneath the sea, making sharks a notably player in the discovery of deep time. As European travellers disvcovered new species, new means of commercial exploitation were born such as shagreen (cured shark and ray skin) which became very desirable for covering scientific instruments; exploitation increased relative to discoveries.
FATHOMING THE SHARK: Evolution, Classification
This chapter starts with the important, more recent case, of Steve Irwin’s death. This case has importance because, as the author points out, if Irwin had died in a car crash, media attention would certainly have been less frenzied. Peopled don’t recognize that Steve Irwin was actually attacked and killed by a shark (in the form of a manta ray).
From a biological perspective he classifies species and covers the vast differences between elasmobranchs and teleosts including such things as sexual maturity and mating, skeletal composition, bouncy (oil or air sac), gills, teeth, and jaw configuration. Scientifically speaking, sunlight effects evolution to a notable degree, as it is speculated that megalodon, former super predator, may have died off due to whales increasing ability to change temperatures in water as a result of sunlight interaction, as well as the current species, whale shark, eating plankton rather than developing to eat higher on the food change. The Carboniferous period is described as being the golden age of sharks and history has offered many developmental characteristics, some unexplainable: enormous dorsal fin, scales, conveyor belt teeth arrangement.
There remains a degree of uncertainty to what lives in the depths of the oceans, and seemingly unfossilized enormous shark teeth have eluded to the idea that 80-90 foot long sharks may exist, as documented in a 1963 account of New South Wales fishermen, from 1918. Elasmobranchs are currently classified into 14 orders, broken into families, and genus. They are then further broken into two groups Galeomorphs and Squaleomorphs with the Galeomorphs considered to be the more advanced in evolutionary sense.