Sunday, 24 June 2007

Sharks of the World (Princeton Field Guides)

It's finally here -- THE DEFINITIVE and COMPLETELY (yes, very literally) EXHAUSTIVE shark guide. I've just picked up my copy and it still feels like a dream. As a serious shark enthusiast, this is the book that I have always dreamed about but has never existed, until now. If you're a shark enthusiast, it would be a tragedy not to acquire this book.





Here's why:

(1) There are lavish full color illustrations of every single species of shark known today -- 404 described species and 49 as-yet-undescribed species on 64 plates, each species in oblique view (not the usual profile shot), giving invaluable information on its shape in 3 dimensions. In addition to the most popular species (such as the great white or the blacktip reef shark), the least well known are also included in this book, such as Deania quadrispinosum or Etmopterus pusillus, or new species, such as Isistius labialis or Somniosus antarcticus. There are 3 plates of 18 species of angel sharks (Squatinidae)! All 5 species of Oxynotus are included! Nine species of saw shark (Pristiophoridae)!

(2) All breath-takingly accurate illustrations are by the same artist, ensuring consistent style. Mark Dando is among the most accomplished of shark artists; his attention to detail is truly astounding. As a discriminating and accomplished fellow natural history artist, I know what I'm talking about. Having said that, please understand that the illustrations chosen for the cover, while wonderfully accurate, are not representative of the exquisite skill demonstrated in his illustrations of more colorful species, such as the ornate wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus). Therefore, at the risk of sinking in the mire of cliche, I nevertheless urge you not to judge this book by its cover!

(3) The work is truly exhaustive, not only in the number of species depicted. Where there is sufficient variation within a species, additional color illustrations depict sexual dimorphism, juvenile forms and races. All species are presented to scale with each other and a scale bar is provided for easy size comparisons.

(4) For those with a taste for the traditional practice of depicting sharks in profile line drawings, the illustrator satisfies in the textual portion of the book. Again, every single species is beautifully presented in a fine ink line drawing from the side (or from the top in angel sharks and saw sharks). With every species is included a detailed range map, and for most species the teeth are also illustrated. For many, the ventral view of the head is also presented.

(5) The text reads like a field guide, providing detailed notes on the measurements, distinguishing features, distribution, habitat, behavior, biology and status of each species, written by leading authorities on sharks. It even includes a checklist at the end so that shark watchers can record their sightings in the field.

I am completely confident that no shark enthusiast will be disappointed in this book. Seriously folks, the editorial review provided by the publisher for this book underestimates its worth. It's truly a gem and will probably remain the definitive reference and the ultimate field guide for a long, long time.

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