Whoosh! Issue 34 - July 1999


Sharks in the XenaVerse




Close Encounters Of The Shark Kind

Care to take bets on when we'll see this shot in JACK OF ALL TRADES?


The approach to Shark Island Prison.



Escape from Shark Island?

Judge: I sentence you to life imprisonment on Shark Island.
The Warrior Princess Goes To Jail On An Island That No One Leaves Alive.
  --Promo Transcription for LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407)

[50] Sharks were first used to prevent prison escapes in Tasmania during in the 1800's. The colonial governors would dump garbage into the waters near the escape routes. Lured by the promise of a free meal, many sharks would congregate in the area. Later the governors of the French prison on Devil's Island (in the Atlantic Ocean near French Guiana) employed sharks as an escape deterrent. Only they consigned executed and dead prisoners to the sharks. When Xena buried the hanged woman at Shark Island, she disrupted that prison's system of feeding executed prisoners to the local sharks.

[51] Since sharks feed at dawn, dusk, and at night, escape from Shark Island is problematic. Moreover, ships frequent the island delivering prisoners and supplies. Since sailors throw their garbage overboard, the local sharks patrol the area for free food. Because the prisoners are women, they have an additional problem. In his pamphlet, "Hazardous Mediterranean Fish" [Note 16], Dr. Louis Zammit cautions that menstruating women should avoid swimming in known shark areas. Although a shark will rarely eat a person, it is attracted to the smell of any type of blood.

[52] However, Dr. Zammit warns that Weevers and Stargazers (Trachinidae) are more of a danger. Since Weevers bury themselves in the sand, unwary waders will step on them. In self defense, the Weevers will stab the person's foot with their poisonous sharp spines. Then there are the Moray Eels (Muraena helena) that dwell in the reefs. During the day, the Moray hides in its lair, but if disturbed, a Moray will latch on to a victim with its many sharp teeth. Unlike a shark, which will usually bump and bite, the eel will continue to pump poison into the bite.

[53] What were those sharks of Shark Island? I think they were Great Hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran) since that benthic species is known to attack people. But no one has ever mentioned their weird heads. I suppose that sharks with eyes on the ends of their flat heads are the norm in that part of the Xenaverse.


The Shark Nation Watches

Autolycus escapes to the Xena Palace


On the beach, shark-free.


[54] Patrolling their seas, the sharks witness the unfolding events of the Xenaverse, from Xena's first pirate adventures to her voyage to Ch'in. The sharks were present at Gabrielle's ill-fated trip to Britannia. On a later voyage, they observed her consign the ring of Crassus, the Roman Proconsul, to the sea.

[55] Hungry, the sharks race to decide who will be the first to eat an unfortunate sailor from the capsized ship in TSUNAMI (65/319). Always fortunate, Autocyclus has yet to be bumped and bitten by one of the sharks. Even after he was shipwrecked and while he was struggling to the shore, Autocyclus still failed to attract a shark in search of an easy meal. Still tempting The Fates, Autocyclus dove into shark-patrolled waters to find the stolen statue of Pax [VANISHING ACT (66/320)].

[56] According to Xenaverse lore, no one escapes from Shark Island prison alive. Sharks, the unseen menace, police the island and feast on the more unfortunate prisoners. Silent and deadly, the sharks lurk beneath the water's surface ready to kill an unwary human. No prisoner ever wanted to test the waters to discover where the sharks lay in wait.

[57] Unseen, the sharks follow the ships of Caesar as he conquers lands for Rome. While Caesar seeks to rule the known world, sharks already rule Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea": the Mediterranean). While he still forges his destiny, the sharks have fulfilled theirs as the Lords of the Seas.


Disclaimer

[58] No Carpet Sharks (Ginglymostomatidae) were stepped on while researching this article; however, a Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) was butted by an overzealous Flipper (Flipper, bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus), and the Author (Homo sapiens xenite) went cross-eyed cross-checking all of the taxonomic names.


Appendix: Shark Conservation

"As we become more familiar with sharks, the move to protect them may spread. ... Seen in their own environment, sharks are incredibly beautiful. The hammerhead, so grotesque when hooked... and hauled as a lifeless carcass aboard a boat, is a creature of matchless grace underwater".
  --Dr. Eugenie Clark, noted shark researcher [Note 17]

[59] I would be remiss in my duty as a naturalist if I did not promote shark conservation. Why? I believe that sharks should be given the same respect and protection that land predators (bears, lions, tigers, and wolves) receive. In the last twenty-five years, Atlantic Ocean populations of shark species have plummeted over seventy percent. Sharks are vulnerable to over-fishing because they grow slowly, mature late, and have few young. Sharks are protected in Australia, South Africa, and the United States (all countries with high incidences of shark attacks). Under the direction of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is working with shark trading nations to conserve their shark populations [Note 18].


Why Protect Sharks?

[60] Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, President of Istituto Centrale per la Ricerca Applicata al Mar (ICRAM: Italy's marine research establishment):

People might well ask: Why protect these large, potentially dangerous sharks? And yet statistics show that attacks on people are extremely rare in the Mediterranean. In fact, there is simply no excuse for ignoring the plight of sharks, which face all manner of problems from overfishing and acutely so within the Mediterranean Sea. ... We must take heed now that these top predators are declining in the region. They are a barometer, from which we can gauge both the health or decay of this Sea [Note 19].

[61] Dr. Ian K. Fergusson, Chairman of the Shark Trust (U.K.):

Traditionally, sharks have had a bad rap when it comes to human attitudes. The maneater image - which is largely false anyway - has been blown out of all proportion compared to the tiny risk that these animals pose to us. Shark attack on humans is not actually a global problem. Human attack on sharks, however, is. We kill millions of them every year, especially for the oriental trade in shark fins, and some of the nearly 400 species are now seriously threatened as a result [Note 20].

[62] Andrea Gashi, Director of Research, TRAFFIC (Joint wildlife trade monitoring program of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and IUCN (The World Conservation Union)):

The shark is the poster child of mismanaged fisheries. Without global implementation of basic shark fisheries management... we are putting sharks on the fast track to extinction and playing Russian roulette with the ecological balance of the marine world [Note 21].


Shark Finning

[63] One of the major reasons for the crash in shark numbers is an increase in demand for shark fin soup. Fins for soup can bring up to $564 US dollars a kilo. Finning is illegal and is considered "cruelty to animals" by international authorities (such as CITES and FAO). To obtain fins for shark fin soup, a finner hooks a live shark, slices off its fins, then throws the still living shark back into the sea. Sharks need to swim to breathe. Without fins, they die a slow, gruesome death. Report finners to local fish and game authorities.

[64] From the anti-finning posters of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) of Leesburg, Virginia [Note 22]:

"The shark in your soup had his fins chopped off, then was returned to the ocean to die an agonizing death. You'll be happy to know the onions suffered not in the least."


Notes

Note 01:
Throughout this article, the reader will notice that I use the scientific binomial for each species. However, I do not specify the full binomial, which usually includes the author (discoverer of the species) and the year named. For example, the full name of the "tiger shark" is Galeocerdo cuvieri, LeSueur, 1822. Since many species have different names locally, the taxonomic name is usually used. For example, along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, the "Nurse" shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is a sluggish, nonthreatening shark, while in Australia, the "Grey Nurse" (Odontaspis [Carcharias] arenarius) is a predatory, dangerous animal. "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name." -- Confucius.
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Note 02:
The Outermost House.
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Note 03:
Brucius, Great White (Carcharodon carcharias, Linnaeus, 1758), A.K.A. White death, Mman-eating. Readers may note that Brucius is the forefather of Bruce (Great White, Carcharodon carcharias, Linnaeus, 1758), the shark of Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg).
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Note 04:
The formal taxonomic listing for sharks and rays are (as listed by the 1984 International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature) Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Subphylum: Vertebrata, Class: Chondrichthyes (non-bony fish), Subclass: Elasmobranchii (cylindrical or flattened bodies, five to seven pairs of gill slits, an upper jaw not fused to the cranium, and placoid scales), Superorder: Selachii (sharks) or Batoidei (rays and skates). Then, their particular Order, Family, Genus, Species, Author, Year. (Amaze your friends with your knowledge of scientific terms while playing Trivial Pursuit.)
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Note 05:
Pelagic animals live in the open ocean; away from the shore or coastline. Their opposite, benthic animals inhabit smaller bodies of water, or live near coastlines, or at the bottoms of lakes, seas, oceans, and rivers.
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Note 06:
"Lamia" is the Great White's common name in Greece.
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Note 07:
Male sharks perform intercourse with their two claspers (mixopterygia), which are appendages of their pelvic fins. For more information on shark procreation, consult Thomas Allen's Shadows In The Sea: The Sharks, Skates, And Rays or Nature (PBS): The Secret World Of Sharks And Rays. (And you thought that science was dull and boring.)
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Note 08:
Alas, Dear Reader, Caesar did not win Xena over with his sparkling conversation and winsome personality. No, Dear Reader, it was sex, lies, and shark clasper soup.
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Note 09:
The Book Of Sharks. Mr. Ellis' shark paintings can also be seen at Fiona's Shark Mania.
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Note 10:
History Of Animals. Translation by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (HTML publication at Internet Classics).
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Note 11:
Sea World of Florida offers educational programs on sharks and shark biology.
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Note 12:
This is a classic case of shark confusion. The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is also known as the cub, river, shovelnose, slipway grey, square-nose, Ganges, Nicaragua, Zambezi, and Van Rooyen's shark. However, there is also the Ganges River Shark (Glyphis gangeticus), a rare species that also lives comfortably in saltwater and freshwater.
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Note 13:
ISAF is a compilation of shark attacks from mid-1500's to the present. Currently administered by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History, ISAF is curated by George Burgess and Chad Macfie.
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Note 14:
Affiliated with ISAF, MEDSAF is curated by Ian K. Fergusson on behalf of the Shark Trust (U.K.). Expanding upon data already held by ISAF, MEDSAF focuses on shark attacks in Mediterranean waters.
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Note 15:
The Author of this new species of rabbit is Kym Taborn, who described it in an e-mail to me. She noted the principal characteristics of this lagomorph are its two huge incisors and propensity for unprovoked attacks on unsuspecting bards.
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Note 16:
Dr. Louis Zammit, "Hazardous Mediterranean Fish". Dr. Zammit, of Malta, discusses the dangers of the local fauna from a medical point of view.
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Note 17:
Eugenie Clark, PhD. "Sharks: Magnificent and Misunderstood," National Geographic, August 1981, pp. 138-186.
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Note 18:
CITES is the international treaty that governs trade in endangered species such as elephant ivory. For more information consult TRAFFIC website.
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Note 19:
"Seeing Fins? New Study Seeks Med's Elusive Great White Sharks", Shark Trust News Release, ST-0598, July 2, 1998.
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Note 20:
"Shark Adoption Scheme Launched for Christmas", Shark Trust News Release, ST-0998, December 14, 1998.
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Note 21:
"Fishing Limits Urged to Save Sharks", March 27, 1998, Environmental News Network (ENN).
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Note 22:
For more information about the posters and on shark conservation issues:

Christine Wilkins, NCMC
3 W. Market St.
Leesburg, VA 20176 USA
FAX: 703-777-1107
e-mail cwilkins22@aol.com

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Sources

Thomas B. Allen, Shadows In The Sea: The Sharks, Skates, And Rays, 1996 (Lyons & Burford, New York)

Aristotle: History Of Animals, A. L. Peck: Translator, 1965, (Loeb Classical Library: Harvard University Press, Boston)

Peter Benchley, Jaws, 1991, (Fawcett Paperback, New York)

Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1928, (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York)

Eugenie Clark, Ph.D. "Sharks: Magnificent and Misunderstood", National Geographic, August 1981 pp. 138-186.

Richard Ellis, The Book Of Sharks, 1975 (Grosset & Dunlap, New York)

Allan Gotthelf, James G. Lennox, G.E.L. Owen, David Furley and Pierre Pellegrin, Aristotle On Nature And Living Things: Philosophical And Historical Studies, 1985 (Mathesis Publications, New York)

Thomas H. Lineaweaver III and Richard H. Backus, The Natural History Of Sharks, 1970, (J.B. Lippincott Co., New York)

Reader's Digest, Sharks, Silent Hunters Of The Deep, 1986, (Reader's Digest Services Ltd., Sydney)

Helen Roney Sattler, Sharks, The Super Fish, 1986 (Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books, New York)

Shark Trust (U.K.)

Victor Springer and Joy Gold, Sharks In Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book, 1989 (Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.)

Dr. Louis Zammit, M.D, Hazardous Mediterranean Fish, HTML publication

TV Programs and Their Websites

PBS: Nature, The Secret World Of Sharks And Rays

Discovery Channel: Shark Week



Biography

Virginia Carper Virginia Carper
My goal is to be a garden variety human being. My friends know me as a squirrel. I am, however, a card carrying member of the Squirrel Lovers Club, and do squirrel studies. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer, the warlord with autism.
Favorite episode: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "A great many people have become allies because of their hatred of me." Xena and Gabrielle nod 'Yes!' BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)
Least favorite episode: Most of the Third Season


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