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Jaws! June 23, 1997

In 1975, millions of us were frightened out of our wits by the movie Jaws. After that, every dip beneath the surface conjured up images of a giant shark feeding on splashing swimmers (even though I only swam in freshwater lakes that summer). Now that I'm long over the phobia and can watch Jaws without fear, I'm fascinated by these predators of perfection. Fortunately, I can now find out plenty about sharks without getting up close and personal by safely surfing the Net.

Sharks – Information and Conservation now defunct; try SharkTrust

Created by Welsh engineering student Ian Jones, Sharks – Information and Conservation is an aquamarine-tinged webstation boasting photos and essays on the toothy fish. The site's initial pull is its first-rate photo gallery that will, despite the conservation angle here, send chills down your spine. Also at the webstation is a basic primer on shark biology that I recommend, and a section that seeks to dispel common myths about sharks—although the more smiling shark photos Jones puts on the pages, the more fearful I become. For those inclined to want the gory details, Jones has also included a selection of shark attack stories culled from the Shark-L list. One story about snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef is excellent example of why one should never pull a shark's tail. Finally, to end your journey there's a shark cartoon page with several shark funnies (but I still don't think it's a laughing matter).

Sharks, Predators of the Deep now defunct

With gorgeous introductory pages, the Sharks, Predators of the Deep site looks promising on the surface. Once you dive into it though, you'll discover its rather shallow waters. The main feature of the site is an alphabetical listing of different species of sharks. Organized by their common names, the profiles are brief, but do include descriptions of the beasties as well as a bulleted list of their predominant features, habitats, foods, and sizes. In the Tiger Shark profile, for example, you'll learn that it eats just about anything, grows to a length of 9 meters, and is considered one of the most dangerous species, being held responsible for the deaths that occurred in World War II when the USS Indianapolis was sunk. Most of the photographs are grouped separately in a photo gallery. It contains dozens of dramatic images. Unfortunately the absence of identifying or explanatory captions makes it largely uninformative. Still, Sharks, Predators of the Deep is a slick site that's worth a short cruise.

Introduction to the Chondrichthyes: Jaws

Sharks are members of the chondrichthyes family, which also includes skates and rays. At the Introduction to Chondrichthyes: Jaws site you'll learn that chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fish are those that have skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. The site goes into the basic details on the species including its fossil history, which goes back some 450 million years, and its biology and morphology. Created by the folks at the University of California at Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology, the highlight of this site for shark fans is Doug Long's Great White Shark exhibit. Long is a former UC graduate student, and his pages provide an illustrated essay on this formidable and frightening menace of the deep. The exhibit is adorned with some rather gruesome pictures and a few scary black and white images of a Great White. In all, this introductory site is authoritative and well researched, making it a must for any shark enthusiast.

Fiona's Shark Mania

Created by Fiona Webster, Fiona's Shark Mania is perhaps the best compendium of shark errata and sites on the World Wide Web. To satisfy toothy monomania there are nine sections of digital shark data types here. You can start by surfing through the images of artwork by marine life illustrator Richard Ellis. About half a dozen species are now featured, such as the Mako shark, accompanied by descriptive captions. Fiona has also gathered a number of shark related graphics and images of famous paintings, such as John Singleton Copley's "Watson and the Shark." If you're as in to sharks as this Web site creator, you may even want to download some shark clip art to festoon your personal correspondence. Once you've exhausted Fiona's collection of shark paraphernalia, you can go to her extensive list of other shark sites. It will certainly take a large bite out your Net searches.

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