Shark Week – Discovering Sharks

It’s that time of year again! Shark Week has returned to make its killing for Discovery Channel, making it the perfect time to review prehistoric shark material. Last year I took a look at Paleo Sharks: Survival of the Strangest and the Safari Ltd. Prehistoric Sharks Toob, while today’s review concerns Discovering Sharks, by Donna Parham, though paleoartist Julius Csotonyi is the real star as the main illustrator, with additional illustrations prepared by Alexandra Lefort. Csotonyi has a trademark highly realistic style that always makes his subjects visually striking. Be sure to check out Csotonyi’s online gallery, and consider purchasing The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi. You won’t regret it!

csotonyi scoop vs megalodon
This image of a Megalodon stalking the shovel tusked elephant Platybelodon is probably one of Csotonyi’s more famous illustrations, despite it being (in my opinion) one of his more ridiculous.

Discovering Sharks features sharks both prehistoric and modern, divided into separate sections of the books. From superstars like Megalodon and the Great White Shark, to oddballs such as Helicoprion and the Viper Dogfish, the book manages to pack in an impressive diversity of species, both famous and obscure. It really leaves readers with a strong hint of the true diversity of sharks both modern and ancient, and puts the lie to the old “unchanged for millions of years” trope everybody likes to apply to them.

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Sorry for the poorer quality of this scan, but I had to include Helicoprion anyway! To learn more about the fascinating “Buzzsaw Shark”, I recommend reading Resurrecting the Shark by Susan Ewing, or listen to The Whorl Tooth Sharks of Idaho by the Ratfish Wranglers.

While Hybodus might not look a million miles away from a great white, there’s no mistaking a Helicoprion or a Xenacanthus for a modern shark. (Incidentally, Xenacanthus appears in this book alongside its likely predator, Dimetrodon. This illustration also hangs as a mural in The Whiteside Museum of Natural History.) Even the modern diversity of sharks on display in this book clearly demonstrates the vast array of unique adaptations various shark families have acquired over the eons.

csotonyi great white
As cliche as the Great White may be, I honestly think this might be my favorite illustration among all the modern sharks in this book. The kelp forest makes for quite the backdrop!

This book is perfect for any grade school child fascinated with sharks, even those with a slight fear of sharks. The arresting illustrations by Csotonyi, accompanied by text boxes full of interesting facts by Parham, are sure to increase anyone’s appreciation for sharks. Far from the fearsome monsters of the movies, sharks deserve our awe and appreciation as much as any other charismatic predator.

csotonyi cladoselache
No book about prehistoric sharks is complete without a Cladoselache about to be munched by a Dunkleosteus!

I greatly enjoyed Discovering Sharks myself, and would even recommend it for older readers as well. I would show off more of the illustrations if I could, but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing! Just know I haven’t even shown a fraction of what it has to offer. It is relatively thick for a book of this sort, and well worth the purchase. I give this an enthusiastic Stomp of Approval! If you’d like to learn more about prehistoric sharks, be sure to check out my previous Shark Week posts (see Paleo Sharks and the Prehistoric Sharks Toob). I also recommend Hannah Bonner’s When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm, as well as Abby Howard’s Ocean Renegades! Keep an eye on this space for more Shark Week content in the next few days!

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