Ila France Porcher

Posturing Sharks

October 25, 2016 - 10:53
The story is found: 
on page 77

Meaningful posturing in sharks was first noticed in the gray reef shark. Richard Johnson of French Polynesia found that when sharks of this species were chased and cornered, they performed a complex display.

The animal would arch its back, raise its snout, depress its pectoral fins and swim toward the offending diver with exaggerated horizontal swimming movements, sometimes rolling or looping in a spiral. Then it would either flee, or, with a lightning gesture, deliver a warning slash.

A Commentary on Science

September 07, 2016 - 05:19
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Earlier this year, National Geographic featured an article entitled “The War on Science,” which questions why many scientific claims face a storm of opposition from the public. It explains that these criticisms result from a tendency to believe in one's religious or political position, rather than in the facts, which is a recent finding by Dan Kahan of Yale University.

Remoras: Shark Companions

August 23, 2016 - 11:03
The story is found: 
on page 66

While studying reef sharks in Tahiti, I became fascinated by the behavior of the remoras accompanying them. They were fish of the Echeneidae family, and ranged in size from a few centimeters to about 50cm long. They were pretty silver fish with widened heads, and often a black racing stripe.

Remoras have evolved a clever strategy to survive. Their relationship with sharks is mutualistic: of benefit to both species.

Sharks don't bite like we do

March 07, 2016 - 16:26
The story is found: 
on page 76

Though sharks have gained a mythical reputation for being biters, their behavior in nature is the opposite of what we would expect from the vicious animals depicted in the media. I had many opportunities to observe sharks under circumstances in which I expected them to bite, as a dog, cat, horse or bird would tend to do. Yet they did not. 

All other species, wild and tame, with which I had the intimacy I shared with sharks, had bitten me sooner or later, either by accident or in a fit of pique; even my pet dog sometimes grabs my hand in her teeth along with the offered cookie. 

The Founding of a Shark Lab

April 13, 2015 - 15:48
The story is found: 
on page 69

Samuel H. "Doc" Gruber began studying sharks in 1961, perhaps before any other scientist had done full-time research on a living shark. During his long career, he founded the Bimini Biological Field Station (Shark Lab), the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a United Nations organization based in Switzerland, and the American Elasmobranch Society.

Since his riveting meeting with the hammerhead shark at the age of 20, Gruber had focused on trying to learn all he could about sharks. Yet his interest had not extended to conservation. But already when he wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1968 he knew that sharks were in trouble.

Doc Gruber's Story--the second installment

January 06, 2015 - 17:35
The story is found: 
on page 78

Samuel H. 'Doc' Gruber began studying sharks in 1961, perhaps before any other scientist had done full-time research on a live shark. During his long career, he founded the Bimini Biological Field Station (Shark Lab), the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)—a United Nations organisation based in Switzerland—and the American Elasmobranch Society.

For Gruber, the study of sharks was more than a profession—it was a calling. He grew up in love with the sea from the earliest age and was already avidly collecting seashells and swimming at the age of three.

Doc Gruber, Pioneer of Shark Science

December 31, 2014 - 18:46
The story is found: 
on page 75

Samuel H. ‘doc’ Gruber began studying sharks in 1961, perhaps before any other scientist had done full-time research on a living shark. During his long career, he founded the Bimini Biological Shark Lab, the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN), a United Nations organization based in Switzerland, and the American Elasmobranch Society.

As a young man growing up in Florida, he loved to dive, and often went off for weekends of scuba diving and spear fishing on a 30m schooner called the Blue Goose.

Pain in Fish & Sharks

October 21, 2014 - 19:42
The story is found: 
on page 45

It was Dr Lynne Sneddon, at the University of Liverpool, who proved scientifically that fish feel pain and suffer. Her team found 58 receptors located on the faces and heads of trout that responded to harmful stimuli. They resembled those found in other vertebrates, including humans. A detailed map was created of pain receptors in fishes' mouths and all over their bodies.

The relief of the fishes' symptoms by the pain reliever showed the interconnection between the nociceptors, which sense the tissue damage, and the central nervous system, which recorded the damage as pain. Here was proof that fish are aware of tissue damage as pain.

The Art of Wolfgang Leander

July 03, 2014 - 15:50
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At the almost venerable age of 73, Wolfgang Leander is one of the great pioneers of freediving with sharks, whose writing and photography have made him a legend.

Of German descent and now living in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Leander was fascinated from early childhood by the sea and its occupants. By the time he was a teenager, he was spending his time spearfishing in the Mediterranean, which was then a diver’s paradise.

Cognition in Sharks

May 02, 2014 - 16:17
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The story is found: 
on page 68

A difficulty in obtaining information about wild animal behaviour is that detailed observations of different individuals is necessary over long periods of time, and this is especially hard to achieve with sharks. But in the shallow lagoons of French Polynesia, such observation was possible without the encumbrance of scuba gear, and without the problem of the shark disappearing into the depths.

As I learned where and how to look for the local sharks, I focused on blackfin reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), because they were so easy to find patrolling the shores.

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