Why is the shark not an animal? On the Division of life-form categories in Oceania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In Oceania, there is a strong linguistic link between terms for marine resource exploitation and the division of life forms. Aspects of this relationship (especially in Cook Islands and Tonga) are described and discussed in this paper from a cross-cultural perspective. A Polynesian response to the question of why the shark is not an animal shows that modern science, which is a "science of the abstract", has something to learn from traditional taxonomy, which is a "science of the concrete".


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography


  • Polynesia, Oceania, life-form, Ethnobiology, ethnotaxonomy, Cook Islands, Tonga
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-22
JournalSPC Traditional Marine Resource management and Knowledge Information Bulletin
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch