Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XII No. 1 - January 2003

Book Reviews

The Dolphins of Hilton Head, by Dr. Cara M. Gubbins, is written for the millions of us who watch with fascination as bottlenose dolphins cruise along our beaches from New Jersey to California. There are many books on this most familiar dolphin, ranging from heavy science to mystical, but this little book outdoes them all as it provides the most updated facts in a simple and straightforward format. The author has a gift for sharing the essence of what she learned as she studied these dolphins for her Ph.D., enough to satisfy anyone who wants to know about the inshore bottlenose dolphin seen worldwide. She chose to stay clear of personal stories and personalized dolphins, perhaps to keep the book short, but probably to allow us to understand the real dolphin, without an overlay of human perceptions. This book is for anyone that enjoys looking out to sea, or understanding nature, but it should be the beach book of 2003. University of South Carolina Press, 2002, ppbk, $12.95, 71 pgs.

Killer Whales of the World, by Dr. Robin W. Baird, should appeal to anyone enthralled by one of the Earth's most fascinating creatures. The book gives a broad perspective of a species far more complex and vulnerable than anyone had imagined. In the mid-80's nearly everyone was fascinated by the famous fish-eating "residents" of the Pacific NW, while Baird studied the very different "transients" that visited Puget Sound to catch marine mammals. Building on his early work, researchers around the world now believe that discrete killer whale populations have such strong prey preferences that foraging strategies can foster reproductively isolated populations. Some may have evolved to separate species, as he suggests for Puget Sound orcas. Baird provides the facts without fantasy. His coverage of conservation issues is particularly timely and poignant. His description of the scientific process towards understanding killer whales is superb. And his ready use of unanswered questions should stimulate many young people interested in studying orcas and helping them to survive human impacts. Like any good book this one makes you think. For example, although humans have been attacked, seemingly mistaken for regular prey, no human has been killed by orcas in the wild. While many believe that we are spared by orcas because we are special, perhaps it is simply that they don't like to try new food. Voyageur Press, 2002, hard cover, $29.95, 132 pgs.

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