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May 29, 2015

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Pick of the Day: The Dolphins of Shark Bay

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TURNER, Pamela S. The Dolphins of Shark Bay. 80p. (Scientists in the Field Series). diag. further reading. index. maps. photos. websites. Houghton Mifflin. Nov. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN .

Gr 5-9–Turner’s newest offering tops even her stellar The Frog Scientist (2009) and Project Seahorse (2010, both Houghton Mifflin) as she delineates and explains the research being conducted on a unique clan of dolphins at Shark Bay, Australia. The lucid text reveals the complexities of this cetacean society, first as a whole, then by delving into smaller sets of male groupings and female/calf relationships. Researcher Janet Mason and her team arrived in Shark Bay in 1988, following in the footsteps of Richard Connor and Rachel Smolker, whose initial studies had attracted Mason to this special environment. Turner joined the team in their research expeditions and carefully documents such topics as foraging and hunting techniques, maternal care, social interactions (including sexual behaviors), echolocation, intelligence, and tool use. Individual dolphins get a lot of attention as well–Nicky, a bad mother; Puck, a terrific one; Reggae, a beach hunter; Dodger, an expert sponger, among others. Clear color photos accompany the text, along with two pages of “More About Dolphins,” a brief list of books/films (all adult), and a quick update on some of the humans and dolphins mentioned in the book. Readers come away with an amazing, if sometimes blurred vision of a culture different from their own, in an alien environment with language, mores, and behaviors that they can only partially understand, and a crystal clear perspective of scientists trying to interpret what they see. A challenging, attractive eye-opener.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

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