A menacing dorsal fin soundlessly slices through the surface of the water as a brawny bull shark searches for food in a shallow river not typically associated with such a large ocean-going predator.
A tiger crouches motionless in a tall thicket of elephant grass, waiting to strike. The low-light vision of its specialized eyes and its striped camouflage ensure that while the unsuspecting prey does not see the tiger, the tiger can see its prey.
A clear sky and full moon emphasize the eeriness of a quiet, snow-laden northern forest night. The silence is abruptly pierced by the echoing sounds of a howling wolf pack. Are there five or 50? Are they moving away or coming toward you? What we do know is that their close social bonds and well-honed tactics make them lethal hunters.
Sometimes scary, the world’s top predators are always intriguing and quite necessary. There are not huge numbers of top predators under the best of circumstances, and we humans have been doing a great job at shrinking those numbers, but why do we need any? What good are these beasts?
Robert Johnson, a wildlife specialist and conservationist; Sharon Gilman, a biology professor specializing in vertebrates and science education; and Dan Abel, a marine science professor and shark specialist, share facts about these fearsome and often misunderstood animals and tell stories about them. Their book, Tooth and Claw: Top Predators of the World (Princeton University Press), is available for purchase.
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