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Shark Week: 'Deadly Stripes: Tiger Sharks'

July 30, 2007 | 10:52 pm

Shark2 There are some things in life that I feel don't need to be said. For instance: "Sharks are not our friends."

Majestic creatures, sure. Awesome in the original definition of the word, as opposed to the surfer definition of the word, definitely. But friendly? No. It's almost a joke worthy of Gary Larson's "The Far Side": You can just imagine some poor schlubby guy heading down to the corner bar for a quick drink with his new pal, a shark. (The bar, of course, would be called the Bait and Switch.)

In "Tiger Sharks," the first hour of Discovery's original shark programming on Monday night, South African shark scientist Mark Addison attempts to show that sharks and humans are capable of a connection beyond the predator-prey relationship.

Addison started diving with tiger sharks (the second-place champions of chomping behind great whites) and did form something of a bond with one he named Dolores. But most of the emotion seems to come from his end, as Addison projects human characteristics onto the gigantic critter. Dolores does swim around Addison in a not-entirely-threatening manner, but can that be considered friendly? Was Dolores already full and figured Addison, an extremely accomplished free diver who can stay underwater for six minutes without oxygen, was probably too muscley and not that tasty anyway?

He wound up tagging Dolores with a GPS tracker to study the traveling pattern of tiger sharks and, among other things, learned that the creatures dive much deeper and swim farther than had been assumed. When the tracking device signaled that it was hundreds of miles away in great white territory, it appeared that Dolores had gone to the big shark tank in the sky, either at the hands of fishermen or as an appetizer for another shark. Troubled by the disappearance of his pal, Addison returned to where he first met Dolores in mourning and, recognizing the distinct markings on her dorsal fin, was reunited with his pal, who hadn't succumbed to the deep blue beyond after all but instead chucked off her tag at some point.

The documentarians take pains to show that Dolores recognized Addison, but I don't know if I believe it. Call me cynical, but I think she was just checking him out in the hopes that he had spent the previous few months on the couch, packing on some yummy body fat.

-- Ann Donahue

(Photo courtesy Discovery Channel)

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