THE BOOK OF SHARKS by Richard Ellis


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Ellis is a painter whose fascination with sharks followed a 1972 commission to illustrate an encyclopedia. (He did not do the cover for Jaws.) The combination of painter's eye and intellectual curiosity may account for his prodigious work. Ellis seems to have mastered the fine points of anatomy and physiology, absorbed the evolutionary history, and followed the current research on biology and behavior. What is known goes far to dispel popular myth. Most of the 250-odd species of sharks are small and harmless. Sharks ought not to be called man-eaters, but manbiters--and maybe not biters out of hunger but out of curiosity or annoyance. Besides a highly developed sense of smell, sharks have good eyes and directional hearing, and are sensitive to bioelectric currents. Their streamlined shape, impressive (and replaceable) teeth, and ""toothy"" skin make them the efficient predators they are. Ellis describes sharks ""in general"" but also gives details, along with paintings, illustrations, and photographs, of major groups including the justly famous mako, hammerhead, and great white shark. He also presents a brief fiction piece, profiles of ""shark people"" (divers, photographers, scientists, writers), summaries of known shark attacks, journal-like accounts of shark hunting, and so on. These text sections are less well integrated, and tend to be repetitious or smack of adventure-magazine style. All the same the hard information, the many illustrations, and the message that sharks should be respected not loathed, studied not slaughtered, is aptly demonstrated and hard to resist.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1976
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap