Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner

The Dolphins of Shark Bay: Scientists in the Field series
By Pamela S. Turner; Photographs by Scott Tuason
Houghton Mifflin; 2013
ISBN: 9780547716381
Grades 7 and up
I received a copy of the book from the publisher.

In this new addition to the award-winning Scientists in the Field series, veteran writer Pamela S. Turner (The Frog Scientist) travels to Shark Bay, Australia where she meets up with dolphin scientist Janet Mann. For over twenty-five years, Mann and her research team have been studying wild bottlenose dolphins, “the only tool-using dolphins anywhere in the world.”  

Yes, that’s right, folks. The dolphins that make their home in Shark Bay, which covers 3,900 square miles in Western Australia, intentionally hold a sponge on the end of their nose to help flush out their prey. It looks like brown blobs covering their noses. Called Spongers, a dolphin masters sponging only if Mom also sponges. Mann wonders why they use the sponges instead of echolocation.

Another technique, more rare than sponging, is beach hunting, a strategy where the dolphin rushes onto the sandy beach in order to scare their prey back into the water. Beach hunting is a dangerous method that requires a long apprenticeship.” Both practices are only kept in the family.

Turner uses a conversational tone in this highly engrossing narrative that includes lots of facts, research findings, and raises some thought-provoking questions about the animal kingdom. Accompany the text are Tuason’s stunning photographs that capture the playfulness of these fascinating creatures.

The book closes with an interesting question: If learning sponging is a tradition passed on from mother to child, does it mean that dolphins have culture? 

It is a question teachers and librarians may want readers to contemplate.

Visit Turner's website for a Dolphins Discussion and Activity Guide.

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