Few scientists played a greater role in constructing how Americans envisioned sharks than marine biologist Perry W. Gilbert. From the 1940s to the 1980s, he and a handful of other scientists linked earlier investigations of morphology with newer studies on populations and ecosystem dynamics to understand predation in marine environments. Investigators often abstracted sharks by privileging body parts, such as the jaws or eyes, in ways that made it difficult to see this group of animals within larger ecological or historical contexts. Starting in the 1960s, shark tagging studies helped convince a growing number of researchers that these creatures were vulnerable to overexploitation.

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