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Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiatorby Richard Ellis
Synopses & Reviews
A perfect fish in the evolutionary sense, the broadbill swordfish derives its name from its distinctive bill—much longer and wider than the bill of any other billfish—which is flattened into the sword we all recognize. And though the majesty and allure of this warrior fish has commanded much attention—from adventurous sportfishers eager to land one to ravenous diners eager to taste one—no one has yet been bold enough to truly take on the swordfish as a biographer. Who better to do so than Richard Ellis, a master of marine natural history? Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiator is his masterly ode to this mighty fighter.
The swordfish, whose scientific name means “gladiator,” can take on anyone and anything, including ships, boats, sharks, submarines, divers, and whales, and in this book Ellis regales us with tales of its vitality and strength. Ellis makes it easy to understand why it has inspired so many to take up the challenge of epic sportfishing battles as well as the longline fishing expeditions recounted by writers such as Linda Greenlaw and Sebastian Junger. Ellis shows us how the bill is used for defense—contrary to popular opinion it is not used to spear prey, but to slash and debilitate, like a skillful saber fencer. Swordfish, he explains, hunt at the surface as well as thousands of feet down in the depths, and like tuna and some sharks, have an unusual circulatory system that gives them a significant advantage over their prey, no matter the depth in which they hunt. Their adaptability enables them to swim in waters the world over—tropical, temperate, and sometimes cold—and the largest ever caught on rod and reel was landed in Chile in 1953, weighing in at 1,182 pounds (and this heavyweight fighter, like all the largest swordfish, was a female).
Ellis’s detailed and fascinating, fact-filled biography takes us behind the swordfish’s huge, cornflower-blue eyes and provides a complete history of the fish from prehistoric fossils to its present-day endangerment, as our taste for swordfish has had a drastic effect on their population the world over. Throughout, the book is graced with many of Ellis’s own drawings and paintings, which capture the allure of the fish and bring its splendor and power to life for armchair fishermen and landlocked readers alike.
"Ellis — marine biologist, author (The Great Sperm Whale), and painter — adds a thorough exploration of Xiphias gladius to his expansive library of books about sea creatures. Once hunted as large game by 'macho fishermen' such as Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey, swordfish decreased in both numbers and size until the 1970s. Conservation efforts and restrictions in hunting and fishing have successfully increased numbers of this fish, 'one of the most spectacularly beautiful animals on earth; one of the largest and fastest, as well as the most heavily armed of all fishes;... one of the ocean realm's most powerful hunters.' Ellis reviews the history of the swordfish and its ancestors, known through fossils, and how changing climate and other factors have affected their range, both past and the present. Ellis discusses the biology of the swordfish; whether swordfish and their relatives, which include marlins, spearfish, and sailfish, are dangerous to humans; and concerns related to swordfish consumption, such as mercury and parasites. With many photographs and illustrations — from sport hunters with their giant, armed catches to paintings of related fish by the author — and stimulating, flowing text, readers will find themselves absorbing many details about this fascinating creature. 51 halftones, 3 line drawings. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Richard Ellis lives in New York and is the author of more than twenty books on marine life, including Great White Shark, Men and Whales, Monsters of the Sea, The Encyclopedia of the Sea, Deep Atlantic, The Search for the Giant Squid, The Empty Ocean, Tuna: A Love Story, The Great Sperm Whale, and Shark: A Visual History. A renowned painter of marine natural history, his paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, and have appeared in such publications as Skin Diver, Audubon, National Wildlife, National Geographic, and the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as his own books.
Table of Contents
1 Man Meets Swordfish
2 Before the Swordfish
3 Swordfish Biology
4 Armed and Dangerous
5 Sport-Fishing for Swords
6 The Sword’s Relatives
7 The Swordfish Mercurial
8 Industrial-Strength Fishing
9 Big Fish versus Big Squid
10 Benchley and Ellis: Swordfishermen
11 Are Swordfish Endangered?
12 The Swordfish and Global Warming
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