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 9780547716381.
RedReviewStarGr 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 Mann 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
In the ocean waters of western Australia, the scientists of the Shark Bay Dolphin Project investigate the behaviors of the highly intelligent bottlenose dolphin, which, unique among the species, uses tools. The detailed descriptions of the scientists' day-to-day activities provide a window into the practice of animal behavior studies. Color photographs portray both the dolphins and the scientists hard at work at their observations. Bib., ind.
Turner's latest contribution to the Scientists in the Field series takes readers to the ocean waters of Western Australia, where biologist Janet Mann and her colleagues from the Shark Bay Dolphin Project investigate the behaviors of the highly intelligent bottlenose dolphin. These particular dolphins--unique among the species, and rare among nonhuman animals--use tools (they protect their noses with sea sponges while searching for prey). Understanding why this behavior developed and is sustained, as well as many other behaviors within generations of the same dolphin families, has been the focus of Mann's academic career. Biographical information about Mann and members of her research team, as well as scientific content about dolphins, is integrated into Turner's journal-like account of her visit to the bay. The detailed descriptions of the day-to-day activities of the dolphins--all of whom are given names and have distinct personalities--provide a window into the practice of animal behavior studies. The accumulation of data like this over decades of observation is what led Mann to argue that dolphin behaviors stretch our definition of culture and raise questions about dolphins in captivity. Color photographs portray the scientists hard at work at their observations and the dolphins at work and play in Shark Bay. Appended with "More About Dolphins," a brief bibliography, "Latest News," and an index. danielle j. ford

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