cover image Chasing Shadows: My Life Tracking the Great White Shark

Chasing Shadows: My Life Tracking the Great White Shark

Greg Skomal, with Ret Talbot. Morrow, $29.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-309083-5

In this illuminating outing, marine biologist Skomal (The Shark Handbook) details the physiognomy and behavior of great white sharks and reflects on his career studying them. Essentially unchanged since they evolved from mako sharks around 30 million years ago, great whites hatch inside their mother’s womb and nourish themselves on unfertilized eggs until birth, when newborns are left to fend for themselves and must evade their own parents, who view them as potential prey. Skomal highlights the amazing adaptations of great whites, such as the sensitive mucus-filled chambers in their snouts capable of detecting “the tiny pulse of electricity generated by the muscle contractions” of other fish. He also discusses methods for studying these predators in the wild, describing how pilots flying overhead direct research boats to sharks for tagging, which allows scientists to track the animals’ location, depth, and muscle temperature. Skomal’s reverence for great whites comes through on every page (he calls them “about as close to perfection as any animal in existence”), and readers will appreciate the opportunity to get an intimate look into the sharks’ lives from the safety of dry land. This is a strong complement to William McKeever’s Emperors of the Deep. (July)