Stewart Springer
Stewart Springer, was a world renowned expert on shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

 behavior, classification (taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

), and distribution of shark populations. There are more than 35 species of sharks, skate
Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae and Arhynchobatinae ....

s, rays
Rajiformes is one of the four orders of batoids, flattened cartilaginous fishes related to sharks.Rajiforms are distinguished by the presence of greatly enlarged pectoral fins, which reach as far forward as the sides of the head, with a generally flattened body. The undulatory pectoral fin motion...

, and other animals either classified originally by him or named after him.


Springer was a field naturalist, mostly self-taught. It was not until 1964, 35 years after he dropped out of Butler University
Butler University
Butler University is a private university located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Founded in 1855 and named after founder Ovid Butler, the university offers 60 degree programs to 4,400 students through six colleges: business, communication, education, liberal Arts and sciences, pharmacy and health...

, that Springer obtained a baccalaureate
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 from George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

 after having already achieved success in his chosen field of ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

. Many colleagues and students addressed him as Dr. on the mistaken assumption that he must have a Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in biology or an allied field given his status in the world community of ichthyologists.

His exceptional interest in animal behavior was apparent early in his life when, at age 22, he identified and described a new species of lizard, Cnemidophorus velox or Plateau Striped Whiptail. His interest in the Plateau Striped Whiptail was piqued, he said, by the fact that the Boy Scout
Boy Scout
A Scout is a boy or a girl, usually 11 to 18 years of age, participating in the worldwide Scouting movement. Because of the large age and development span, many Scouting associations have split this age group into a junior and a senior section...

s that he was chaperoning on a field trip in Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 in 1928 could catch jack rabbits and other lizards in the area but could not catch this particular lizard. He had no idea that the Plateau Striped Whiptail was a new species of a much studied genus which contained some species, among them C. velox, that were parthenogenic. He obtained his specimens for examination by shooting them with a 22 calibre rifle loaded with a specially concocted "dust shot" cartridge made by his cousin, Max Barnes, who was an ordnance expert for the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 . Thus, Springer's professional focus on animal behavior as a distinguishing charactersitic in classification began not with sharks but rather with a lizard. For an interesting discussion of whether or not C. velox Springer is a true species see Everett's article (see below).

Early shark-related activities

Springer's early interest in herpetology
Herpetology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians and reptiles...

 was soon displaced but not extinguished by a lifelong fascination with sharks. Having dropped out of college in 1929 as a sophomore, he and a friend headed south to Biloxi, Mississippi
Biloxi, Mississippi
Biloxi is a city in Harrison County, Mississippi, in the United States. The 2010 census recorded the population as 44,054. Along with Gulfport, Biloxi is a county seat of Harrison County....

, where they hoped to collect and preserve animal specimens for zoological study in colleges. They were interested in catching and selling dogfish but soon discovered that dogfish was not to be found in Biloxi waters.

They learned of another shark species about the same size as Squalus called the sharpnose shark. Local fishermen called them "puppy sharks." They were able to catch many sharpnose sharks all about 3 feet (1m) in length and all males which meant they could not fill their orders for equal numbers of males and females. Over the following years, Springer found that among most of the shark species he studied adult males and adult females did not live together. Typically, the males live in slightly cooler water or have separate migratory patterns that keep them separated from the females except during mating..


Stewart Springer published more than 80 papers on sharks, skates and rays in a wide range of scientific journals including American Midland Naturalist, Copeia, Nature, Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, the Florida Academy of Science, Science, Texas Journal of Science, UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 and various government agencies in the U.S., New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. During and after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he engaged in commercial shark fishing when he was not working for the Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 (OSS) on a shark repellant called "Shark Chaser" or on survival manuals for the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...


Fishery work

In the 1940s sharks were hunted commercially primarily for shark liver oil
Shark liver oil
Shark liver oil is obtained from sharks that are caught for food purposes and are living in cold, deep oceans. The liver oil from sharks has been used by fishermen for centuries as a folk remedy for general health...

, a rich natural source of Retinol
Retinol is one of the animal forms of vitamin A. It is a diterpenoid and an alcohol. It is convertible to other forms of vitamin A, and the retinyl ester derivative of the alcohol serves as the storage form of the vitamin in animals....

, a dietary form of Vitamin A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

, and for their fins used to make shark fin soup
Shark fin soup
Shark fin soup is a popular soup item of Chinese cuisine usually served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets, or as a luxury item in Chinese culture. The shark fins provide texture while the taste comes from the other soup ingredients.There is controversy over the practice of shark...

. Some species of sharks also were valued for their hides from which a very tough and durable leather could be made.

From 1947 through 1949 Springer worked for Shark Industries, Inc. as Asst. Production Manager. The company, bought out by the Borden Milk Co. in 1949, ceased operations shortly after as Vitamin A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

 was first synthesized in 1947 while at the same time the most sought after shark species were being "fished out" in waters near the company's shark liver processing plant at Port Salerno, Florida
Port Salerno, Florida
Port Salerno is a census-designated place in Martin County, Florida, United States. The population was 10,141 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Port St...


From 1950 to 1971, Springer worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Department of the Interior, as a fishery methods and equipment specialist while continuing his research in the life history and behavior of sharks.

From 1950 to 1954 he was project manager for an exploratory fishing and gear development program for the Bureau at Pascagoula, Mississippi
Pascagoula, Mississippi
Pascagoula is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi, United States. It is the principal city of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area, as a part of the Gulfport–Biloxi–Pascagoula, Mississippi Combined Statistical Area. The population was 26,200 at the 2000 census...

. During his tenure there, the project was expanded making notable progress in developing more effective fishing methods for shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

 and tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

 in the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. From 1955 to 1962 he served as Chief, Branch of Exploratory Fishing in the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

Bachelor's degree

In 1961, Springer became interested in an opportunity in the Bureau which would allow him to pursue further shark research in an academic setting on the Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 campus. To qualify for the competitive Civil Service position as a Fishery Biologist, he needed at least a baccalaureate degree in the biological sciences. At age 55, "Dr." Springer went back to school to get a B. A. degree at the George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

. From 1963 to 1967 Springer served as Fishery Biologist (research), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at Stanford where he ran a shark tagging program. From 1968 to 1971 he served as a Fishery Biologist (Research), National Marine Fisheries, at the National Museum in Washington, D.C. This placed him in the enviable position, as a taxonomist, of being able to examine some of the very specimens he had personally collected and 'pickled' in earlier years first as a shark fisherman and later as a researcher.

Stewart Springer retired from Federal Service in 1971 but he continued his research while employed by the Mote Marine Laboratory
Mote Marine Laboratory
Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent not-for-profit marine research organization based on City Island in Sarasota, FL. The laboratory aims to advance the science of the sea, both through its marine and estuarine research labs and through the public Mote Aquarium and its affiliated educational...

 in Sarasota, Florida. In April 1979, he completed his last major research project with publication by the National Marine Fisheries Service of "A Revision of the Catsharks, Family Scyliorhinidae." This paper covered a family of sharks that included (in 1979) 86 species and 17 genera. Six new species and one new sub-species were described in this publication (A Revision of the Catsharks, Family Scyliorhinidae, Stewart Springer, NOAA Technical Report NMFS Circular 422, United States Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

, April 1979, 152 pages.)

Special Assignments

Stewart Springer served in 1960 as Government advisor to the Rules of the Road delegation to the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea. From 1958 to 1970 he was a Member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Shark Research Panel. He was a co-founder of the Shark Attack File now maintained by George H. Burgess at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida Museum of Natural History
The Florida Museum of Natural History is the State of Florida's official state-sponsored and chartered natural history museum. Its main facilities are located on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida....

. In 1964, Springer was Chief Scientist, Cruise 8, International Indian Ocean Expedition aboard the research vessel Anton Brun. From 1978 to 1980 he was a Member of the Shark Panel, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.


  • Fellow
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science
      American Association for the Advancement of Science
      The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...


  • Memberships
    • American Elasmobranch Society
      American Elasmobranch Society
      The American Elasmobranch Society is a professional society devoted to the scientific study of living and fossil chondrichthyans . Other aims include the promotion of education, conservation, and wise utilization of natural resources. Established in 1983 by Dr...

      , (Distinguished Service Award);
    • American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists;
    • American Littoral Society;

  • Research Associateships
    • Florida Museum of Natural History

External links

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