The shark's basic design was perfected by Mother Nature 100 million years ago, and she has been mass-producing them ever since. The shark is so superbly suited to its purpose that it has outlived the dinosaur, the mastodon, the saber-tooth tiger, and the woolly mammoth. There have been some 350 species identified to date, and Nature is nothing if not inventive with her designs: besides the big four' predatory species (the great white, the bull, the tiger and the white tip oceanic shark) there exist such unlikely-looking creatures as the goblin shark, which sports a pike above its mouth; the thresher shark, whose scythe-like tail accounts for 50 per cent of its total length; the megamouth shark, discovered in 1976 when one attempted to eat the sea-anchor of a warship; and the ingenious little cookie-cutter shark, which dashes in, latches on to its much larger prey, and corkscrews out a circular bite of flesh. In Shark , Dean Crawford explores the natural and cultural history of a creature that has a prominent place in mythology, the imagination, and even religion. He analyses the ways that the shark has been sensationalised in literature and film, as well as how it looms large in our psyche, inspiring fear and fascination in equal measure, and how our emotional responses have encouraged the commercial and recreational slaughter of shark species. Ultimately, Shark is a celebration of a beautiful animal ideally adapted to its environment. Shark populations are now threatened, not because of any flaw in design, but because of our own species' irrational fear and misrepresentation of them. This book is an inspiration to transcend that fear, and to come to know and respect this truly magnificent creature.