Book review: Marine Mammals

Marine Mammals

Chris & Mathilde Stuart

Struik Nature

Review: Karen Watkins

Did you know that all whales and dolphins have complex communication calls?

Their songs are actually a web of low-frequency grunts, humming, moans and clicks.

These complex, melodic tunes may travel hundreds of kilometres.

The loudest songs are produced by the male, presumably to locate and attract females across their vast ocean home.

Also, the bottlenose dolphins can detect the smallest of prey up to 100m away by emitting focused beams of high-frequency clicks measured in terms of microseconds.

These are a few of the fascinating facts in this nifty, compact little book.

Cape Town may be surrounded by ocean but its wildlife is little known by scientists and enthusiasts.

Few people are aware that the ocean also has a Big 6: dolphins, seals, whales, otters, penguins and sharks. Not to mention the birdlife.

This easy-to-use identification guide is a super introduction into the underwater world around us.

It focuses on whales, dolphins and seals found in southern African waters and the southern ocean.

With almost 50 species, from the demonstrative humpback whale and dusky dolphin to the rare leopard seal that visited Kommetjie in July and killer whales (Orca, which are actually dolphins), reported in False Bay in September.

With non-scientific jargon the book has full colour photos and detailed illustrations of each species’ diagnostic characteristics.

Identification features include behaviour, diet and distribution of whales, dolphins and seals which are divided by colour.

It also explains breaching, bow-surfing, lob-tailing and other common behaviour, the diving outlines as well as breathing “blow” and tail shapes for quick reference.

The authors also unpack marine mammals’ evolutionary background and adaptations to aquatic life.

Chris and Mathilde Stuart have spent much time traveling the world searching for wild animals and promoting conservation.

Mathilde holds a doctorate from the University of Innsbruck. Chris holds an MSc from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

They can be found online at

This makes an ideal gift for anyone with an interest in the ocean.