Authorship

Mike is an experienced writer of technical and popular scientific texts.

Authorship

Mike is available to author commissioned books, reports and the contents for blogs and websites. He is also available to research and write the content for displays, exhibitions, workshops and science theatre productions. Mike has published over 120 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and over 800 popular science articles, and authored or edited 24 books, including five children’s books.

For more information on Mike’s books, please contact him at mike@mikebruton.co.za or 083 212 7609

Books authored or edited by Mike Bruton:

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  • About the book

A Field Guide to the Eastern Cape Coast

Lubke R.A, Gess F, & Bruton M.N. 1988. Wildlife Society of Southern Africa, Grahamstown. 520 pages.

A Wildlife handbook

  • About the book

Alternative Life-History Styles of Animals

Bruton M.N. 1989. Kluwer Academic Publishers, New York. 327 pages.

  • About the book

Biology and Ecology of African Freshwater Fishes

Leveque C, M.N Bruton, & G.W. Ssentongo. (eds.). 1988. ORSTOM, Paris. 508 pages.

“A meeting of the Working Group on African Limnology held in December 1979 in Nairobi under the aegis of SIL end UNEP provided an opportunity for ichthyologists working in Africa to meet and exchange ideas.

The Working Group expressed their anxiety about the increasing human impact on natural aquatic ecosystems, which takes the form of dam construction on rivers (interrupting fish migration), pollution (mainly with insecticides), the introduction of alien species into many basins, etc. These perturbations are a danger to the indigenous fish species, many of which are already subject to intensive fisheries due to an increasing demand for protein.

The Working Group recommended that international initiatives such as the CLOFFA Project, which aims to synthesize all information available on the systematics and distribution of African freshwater fish, should be encouraged.

The Group also recommended that a synthesis of our knowledge of the biology and ecology of African freshwater fishes should appear as a logical addition to CLOFFA and as a necessary tool for all scientists involved in aquatic resource management. A proposal to prepare a book was approved by the Working Group and appeared as one of the final recommendations of the conference.

It was, of course, impossible to compile an exhaustive review of all information available. We therefore selected a number of themes and requested various specialists to write different chapters. The aim was to synthesize the main results obtained and to draw a number of general conclusions. At the same time it was possible to determine the state of our knowledge in different fields and to identify gaps for future investigations.

This book should therefore be of interest to both specialists and students who will find in it a wealth of information…”

  • About the book

Great South African Inventions

Bruton M.N. 2010. Cambridge University Press, Cape Town. 96 pages.

Did you know that the Dolos, Kreepy Krauly and Pratley Putty are all famous South African inventions? This fascinating book is a collection of the groundbreaking achievements of South African inventors and innovators from ancient to modern day.

From the use of traditional plants to the latest developments in space and computer technology, it explores a wide range of remarkable inventions that have shaped South Africa, Africa and the world.

How many South African inventions or inventors can you name? Intriguing South African inventions include remarkable devices and services that have improved the quality of life for people, saved thousands of lives, contributed to the advancement of science and astronomy, and made strides in industrial innovation.

This book also looks at the fascinating lives of the inventors themselves, some of whom are Nobel Prize winners and the struggles they faced in achieving success. Clear, feature and information boxes present further interesting facts about these great South African inventors and their inventions.

  • About the book

Pocket Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Southern Africa

Bruton M.N, P.B.N Jackson, & P.H. Skelton. 1982. Centaur, Cape Town. 88 pages.

  • About the book

Studies on the Ecology of Maputaland

Bruton M.N, & K.H. Cooper (eds.). 1980. Rhodes University and the Wildlife Society of Southern Africa, Grahamstown. 478 pages.

  • About the book

The Biology of Latimeria and Evolution of Coelacanths

Musick J.A, M.N Bruton, & E.K. Balon. 1991. Kluwer Academic Publishers, New York. 380 pages.

This volume is the product of several groups of scientists working independently who finally came together to share their knowledge of coelacanths and more efficiently utilise Latimeria chalumnae tissues, as well as to work for the conservation of Latimeria, the last survivor of an entire class of fishes that once dominated the earth’s shallow seas.

  • About the book

The Essential Guide to Whales in Southern Africa

Bruton M.N. 1998. David Philip Publishers, Cape Town. 80 pages.

Whale watching is interesting more and more people each year. Here is a reliable guide to whales, by professor Mike Bruton of the Two Oceans Acquiarium, Cape Town. Amongst other informations it enables the watcher to identfy a whale by its blow and by its fin.

  • About the book

Traditional Fishing Methods of Africa

Bruton, M.N. 2016. Cambridge University Press. 96 pages.

M.N. Bruton. 2016. Traditional Fishing Methods of Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cape Town. 96 pages, paperback. Fully illustrated in colour. ISBN 978 110756 1878. Price R165.00.

This book can be ordered from Cambridge University Press via this email address: orders@cup.co.za

 

  • About the book
  • Praise for the book

When I was a Fish - Tales of an Ichthyologist

Bruton M.N. 2015. Jacana Media, Cape Town. 310 pages.

He became obsessed with fish during his early childhood and carried this passion with him throughout his career. Mike Bruton was born in the town where the first living coelacanth was discovered and studied at Rhodes University in South Africa at the same time as the great ichthyologist, Professor JLB Smith, who described ‘old fourlegs’. He subsequently became Director of the Ichthyology Institute established in Smith’s name and pioneered searches for the coelacanth off the coast of southern Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean using the German research submersible, ‘Jago’. Together with colleagues from South Africa, the USA, Canada and Germany he made many new discoveries on the biology of this extraordinary fish and campaigned internationally for its conservation.

Mike’s research on the freshwater fish of Africa and the Middle East lead to entanglements with crocodiles, hippopotami, giant snakes and military operations but also allowed him to contribute to international efforts to conserve wetlands and endangered species. He also made major contributions to our understanding of the ways in which fish are adapted to their watery environments and how they made that epic evolutionary transition from water onto land.

Whether or not you are a fisherman, aquarist or sushi eater, you will be fascinated by these astonishing tales of a man who almost became a fish!

" Most scientists are passionate about their research subjects, and almost all have fascinating stories to tell. However, a minority seems to have a natural inclination to share their scientific experiences and findings beyond scholarly communities, and fewer still are gifted public communicators (although much can apparently be achieved through practice). For Mike Bruton, science communication was a natural extension of scientific research. Even as a young field researcher he made an effort to communicate his science and findings to local communities. In later years, much of his professional focus was driven by a strong conviction that “Scientists need to communicate with the public in a less formal and more entertaining way” (p. 271). For the author, decades of practising this principle has honed an exceptional skill to share the wonders of science in a most captivating and lucid way. Bruton’s memoir is a story of a boy who grew up to become a naturalist, fish behaviourist and science educator; a life and career almost seamlessly (and inevitably so) intertwined with the discovery of the coelacanth. The story of Mike Bruton starts with his inquisitive boyhood years growing up in East London, studying the scales on butterfly wings, making drawings of insects, and collecting skeletons of reptiles, birds and mammals. His graduate and Honours studies at Rhodes University (1967-1990) were followed by six years of postgraduate field work at Lake Sibaya in KwaZulu-Natal (1970-1976), studying the life histories and behaviour of the lake’s fishes. After a post-doctoral year with the British Museum in London (1977) he returned to Grahamstown and to Rhodes University (1978-1994), where his contribution included 12 influential years as Director of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology. He then made a remarkable transition to become Head of Education at the then newly established Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (1995-1999). The book stops short of covering the author’s post-aquarium exploits, away from fishes and into the world of international science centre design and development, because “that is another story … ’ (p. 273). Mike Bruton is a self-confessed coelacanthophile [sic] and this ancient fish gets ample coverage in the book. The author’s relationship with the coelacanth began when, at 10 years old, he first saw a specimen at the East London Museum. The author shares his intense interest in, and deep knowledge of, coelacanth discovery in a most vivid and captivating way. The journey starts with Margery Courtenay-Latimer examining by-catch from a trawler at Buffalo Docks in December 1938 and seeing ‘the most beautiful fish I have ever seen’ (p. 137). Then there is J.L.B. Smith’s role in identifying this fish as a coelacanth and his subsequent treasure hunt that led to locating a second specimen in the Comoros and bringing it to South Africa. Detailed accounts of the author’s own search expeditions in the Comoros as well as off the South African east coast provide insight into life in a research submarine as well as the excitement of being at the forefront of scientific discovery. The author writes convincingly about the emotional importance of the coelacanth, both as a flagship species for conservation in general and as an icon representing discovery and breakthrough for the people of South Africa (and especially from Grahamstown and East London). The book also provides a summary of the known distribution, population biology and behaviour of coelacanths. Through the pen of someone who has practised science with remarkable passion and to its broadest definition, this book presents an excellent account of the excitement, demands and sacrifices associated with a career in science. Bruton regarded his years of relative isolation “being deposited on the shores of a remote lake” (Sibaya) as an “enormous privilege” (p. 23). During these years he got to know his research subjects (mostly fishes) intimately, spending many days and nights underwater to observe and document their behaviour. The reader gets an appreciation of the painstaking work that is often required for the eventual reward of a new and fascinating insight. In the instance of the author, one example of such rather tedious work was “careful analysis of five scales of each of 2,223 Mozambique tilapia” (p. 27)! An important lesson for scientists lies in the value of learning from, and working with, exceptional and inspiring people. Bruton had great respect and appreciation for several tutors and collaborators who significantly influenced his career. During his postdoctoral years at Lake Sibaya, a visiting herpetologist’s routine of “spending 12-hour days in the field and then working into the early hours on his research papers” (p. 39) earned his admiration. He acknowledges that “my best tutors were always those who told me that my very best is still not good enough” (p. 39). Later, as Director at the Ichthyology Institute, he got an opportunity to return the favour by creating the space for several staff members “to reach their full potential” (p. 67). A thread throughout the book is Bruton’s belief that science has a dual role in society: generating new information and sharing that information with others, beyond the scientific community alone. The latter, often a weakness among scientists, is a field in which the author has provided exceptional leadership. His sense of responsibility to share his research findings started during postdoctoral research years at Lake Sibaya, where he held outdoor classes for local amaThonga people using sand drawings and artefacts such as shells and bones to explain scientific concepts. During his post-doctoral year in London he found a role model in Dr Humphry Greenwood who “loved giving popular talks and was able to connect with all audiences” (p. 51). During his years with the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, he was intimately involved with several initiatives to promote dialogue between scientists and the public. These included a popular newsletter, a seafood recipe book, a fish-in-art exhibition and the establishment of the Knysna Angling Museum. During his time at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Bruton was able to give free reign to his passion for science communication and education. He and his team pioneered various teaching programmes and used film screenings, popular science talks and interactive displays to reach thousands of children and adults. After presenting one of these popular science talks, the author was invited on a “voyage of a life time” (p. 222), as guest speaker on the Queen Elizabeth 2. During this voyage he was required to give five illustrative talks to the passengers and crew. His chosen topics were: Story of the Coelacanth, History of Diving, Myths and Legends of the Sea, Importance of Marine Conservation and Symbolism of Marine Animals. For a person of such enormous talent and enthusiasm, there will naturally be more opportunities than those that can realistically be pursued. Along Bruton’s career, such crossroad moments included the choice between a post-doctoral year in the Amazon versus the British Museum, and in later years whether to remain in academia or to negotiate a transition to science education in the world outside it. In documenting such a life there can be many retrospective “what if” questions. The author himself laments the fact that “life is linear and not dichotomous” (p. 49) – that we cannot return in time to also explore alternative options and experience their journeys. But then the author certainly seems to have made up for that limiting reality by living his chosen options to the full. In doing so, he did not allow his science to be contained by an artificial or sometimes mental boundary. For example, the boundary between his work and private life was highly porous (even when going for an evening jog he would take a rucksack along in case of an opportunity to collect some remarkable specimen). He interchanged rather effortlessly between working on freshwater ecosystems and the marine realm, and for Bruton the often-problematic boundaries between scientific research, science communication and science education were completely blurred. I found each of his 22 thematic and semi-chronological chapters in When I was a Fish: Tales of an Ichthyologist highly informative, inspiring and entertaining to read. A brief overview of the author’s achievements (books written or contributed to, students supervised and committees served on) during his time at the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology is presented in an appendix. A second appendix lists the common and scientific names of animals mentioned in the text (9 pages). The main text is further complemented by a glossary of technical terms (12 pages) and 16 pages of colour photographs. The style of the book makes it appropriate for a broad audience including aquatic (freshwater and marine) scientists, coelacanth and more generally fish enthusiasts, and anyone interested in conservation, science communication and education, or simply in building a career in science. "

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Dirk Roux, Scientific Services, South African National Parks

"I've just finished reading your book When I was a Fish. I literally could not put it down, and I have never enjoyed a book as much as this! … The book is brilliantly written, and I have taken a number of valuable lessons from it. The number of different fields that you have excelled in is particularly inspiring, and strongly supports my recently adopted mantra "As long as you're uncomfortable, you're growing". Thanks again for putting together such a fantastic piece of work. "

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Cameron McLean, Specialist Ecologist: Biodiversity Planning, eThekwini Municipality

"...one of Africa’s most versatile and readable scientists – with Darwin’s insatiable curiosity and Stephen J Gould’s talent for popularising science. To study fish Prof Bruton became a fish. "

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James Clarke, author and columnist

"A remarkable life story skilfully woven into the stories of fishes seldom accessible to non-scientists. A must-read for fish lovers, anglers, naturalists and aspiring marine biologists. "

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Dr Patrick Garratt, CEO Two Oceans Aquarium

"In his career, Mike has come closer than most to shedding the ‘wet and slimy’image of fish and the marine world. In this book he tells vivid stories of his research and exploration – he captivates by sharing his unbounded passion for the subject. It is a genuine pleasure to have been a small part of his big world. "

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Wolfgang Grulke, FutureWorld - The Global Business and Technology Think Tank, Chairman Emeritus FutureWorld International Limited

"When I was a Fish is a high-octane read and exemplifies the story of a driven biologist. Mike Bruton is a super achiever with an enthusiasm and drive that leaves one breathless, even intimidated, by how he manages so many interests at any one time. The coelacanth sections are a joy to read and a reminder that good biologists are also subject to grand passions and when, as in Mike’s case, a passion for conservation is underlain by well-balanced principles leavened by pragmatism, we see a person whose story is a more than a worthwhile read. "

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George Hughes, former CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, author of Between the Tides, In Search of Turtles

"“I fortuitously read When I was a Fish in Maputaland, just a few kilometres from Lake Sibaya, where Mike spent many years. The book brought back a time in history when naturalists were interested in all of nature, when wildlife abounded and when people lived in relative harmony with the environment. This made me realise the importance of a book such as When I was a Fish, which provides a record of an era in science that has almost disappeared... This book is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in fish, in fact, anyone with an interest in our amazing natural world. "

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Judy Mann-Lang, former CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR)

"This remarkable and highly readable book will appeal to all naturalists. Mike Bruton’s account of his scientific life makes fascinating reading, particularly when he talks about the coelacanth - a subject on which few will know more than he does. This lovely book is a triumph. "

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Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books

"Blessed with an insatiable curiosity about life and its evolution, and with energy driven by unbridled passion, Professor Mike Bruton has left (and continues to be leaving) an indelible mark on conservation in South Africa and beyond our borders. Mike is an extraordinary scientist and educator – renowned as an ichthyologist, he has evolved into a science advocate, and his story is a wonderful articulation of a life lived to the full, and lived to the benefit of science, conservation and people. "

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Guy Preston, Hout Bay

  • About the book

Wonders of the Ocean (Questions & Answers)

Bruton M.N & S. Matthews. 2000. Struik, Cape Town. 64 pages.

An exciting way to get to know some of the unusual and fascinating behaviour patterns and characteristics of southern Africa’s plentiful sea-life. Why is seawater salty? What is a mermaid’s purse? Can some fish really fly? Are there ghosts on our beaches? Why do waves sometimes sparkle at night? What is the sardine run?

Scientific papers and chapters in books authored by Mike Bruton:

Balon, E.K., M.N. Bruton & H. Fricke. 1988

A fiftieth anniversary reflection on the living coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae: some new
interpretations of its natural history and conservation status



Environmental Biology of Fishes 23: 241-280.

Bruton, M.N. & G.S. Merron. 1990.

The proportion of different eco-ethological sections of reproductive guilds of fishes in some African inland waters.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 28:179-187.

Bruton, M.N. & M.J. Armstrong. 1991.

The demography of the coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 32: 301-311.

Bruton, M.N. & R.E Stobbs. 1991.

The ecology and conservation of the coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 32: 313-319.

Bruton, M.N. & R.E. Boltt. 1975.

Aspects of the biology of Tilapia mosssambica Peters (Pisces: Cichlidae) in a natural freshwater
lake (Lake Sibaya, South Africa)



Journal of Fish Biology 7: 423-445.

Bruton, M.N. & S. Coutouvidis. 1991.

An inventory of all known specimens of the coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae, with comments on trends in the catches.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 32: 371-390.

Bruton, M.N. 1979.

The amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals of Lake Sibaya



pp. 246-285. In: B.R. Allanson (ed.) Lake Sibaya. W. Junk, The Hague.

Bruton, M.N. 1979.

The breeding biology and early development of Clarias gariepinus (Pisces: Clariidae) in Lake Sibaya,
South Africa, with a review of breeding in species of the subgenus Clarias (Clarias)



Transactions of the Royal Society of London 35(1): 1-45.

Bruton, M.N. 1979.

The fishes of Lake Sibaya.



pp. 162-245. In: B.R. Allanson (ed.) Lake Sibaya, W. Junk, The Hague.

Bruton, M.N. 1979.

The food and feeding behaviour of Clarias gariepinus (Pisces: Clariidae) in Lake Sibaya, South Africa, with emphasis on its role as a predator of cichlids.



Transactions of the Royal Society of London 35(1): 47-114.

Bruton, M.N. 1989.

The living coelacanth 50 years later.



Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 47: 19-28.

Bruton, M.N. 1990.

Trends in the life-history styles of vertebrates.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 28: 7-16.

Bruton, M.N. 1990.

The conservation of the fishes of Lake Victoria, Africa: an ecological perspective.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 27: 161-175.

Bruton, M.N., A.J.P. Cabral & H. Fricke. 1992.

First capture of a coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae (Pisces, Latimeriidae) off Mozambique.



South African Journal of Science 88: 225-227.

De Moor, I.J. & M.N. Bruton. 1988.

Atlas of alien and translocated indigenous aquatic animals in southern Africa.



South African National Scientific Programmes Report 144: 1-310.

Merron, G.S. & M.N. Bruton. 1988.

The biology and ecology of the fishes of the Okavango Delta, Botswana, with particular emphasis on the role of the seasonal flood.



Investigational Report of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology. 29: 1-294.

Safriel, O. & M.N. Bruton. 1984.

Aquaculture in South Africa: a cooperative research programme.



South African National Scientific Programmes Report 89: 1-79.

Skelton, P.H., M.N. Bruton, G.S Merron & B.C.W. van der Waal. 1985.

The fishes of the Okavango drainage system in Angola, South West Africa and Botswana: taxonomy and distribution.



Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology 50: 1-51.

Stobbs, R.E. & M.N. Bruton. 1991.

The fishery of the Comoros, with comments on its possible impact on coelacanth survival.



Environmental Biology of Fishes 32: 341-359.