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Sep 10, 2012 5:05 PM by Lauren Molenburg

Shark expert Ron Taylor dies; helped make 'Jaws'

SYDNEY (AP) -- Ron Taylor, a beloved Australian marine conservationist who helped film some of the terrifying underwater footage used in the classic shark thriller "Jaws," has died after a long battle with cancer, a close family friend said Monday. He was 78.

Taylor, who had suffered from leukemia for two years, died on Sunday at a hospital in Sydney, said Andrew Fox, who worked with Taylor on shark conservation efforts for decades.

Fox said Taylor had mixed feelings about his work on "Jaws," which terrified beachgoers but ultimately helped draw attention to the intimidating yet often threatened animals.

Taylor and his wife, Valerie, spent years filming great white sharks and trying to persuade a wary public that the much-feared creatures were beautiful animals worthy of respect. Their stunning up-close images of sharks drew the attention of "Jaws" director Steven Spielberg, who asked the couple to capture footage of a great white for his 1975 blockbuster.

The Taylors shot much of the now-classic sequence in which the shark tears apart a cage holding one of the main characters.

He and Valerie went on to shoot several documentaries, including "Shark Hunters" and the TV series "Inner Space," narrated by William Shatner. In "Operation Shark Bite," Valerie wears a chain mail suit the couple designed to ward off damage from shark attacks, escaping without injury despite sharks chewing on her arm. (The suit was too small for Ron.)

In 2003, Taylor was named a Member of the Order of Australia, one of Australia's highest civilian honors, for his conservation work. Valerie received the same honor in 2010.

Read more about Ron Taylor's career by the AP

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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