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The Brilliant Abyss tells the story of our relationship with the deep sea – how we imagine, explore and exploit it. It captures the golden age of discovery we are currently in and looks back at the history of how we got here, while also looking forward to the unfolding new environmental disasters that are taking place miles beneath the waves, far beyond the public gaze.
Throughout history, there have been two distinct groups of deep-sea explorers. Both have sought knowledge but with different and often conflicting ambitions in mind. Some people want to quench their curiosity; many more have been lured by the possibilities of commerce and profit. The tension between these two opposing sides is the theme that runs throughout the book, while readers are taken on a chronological journey through humanity's developing relationship with the deep sea. The Brilliant Abyss ends by looking forwards to humanity's advancing impacts on the deep, including mining and pollution and what we can do about them.
But watch out. Some molluscs can kill you if you eat them. Some will kill you if you stand too close. That hasn't stopped people using shells in many ways over thousands of years. They became the first jewelry and oldest currencies; they've been used as potent symbols of sex and death, prestige and war, not to mention a nutritious (and tasty) source of food.
Spirals in Time is an exuberant aquatic romp, revealing amazing tales of these undersea marvels. Helen Scales leads us on a journey into their realm, as she goes in search of everything from snails that 'fly' underwater on tiny wings to octopuses accused of stealing shells and giant mussels with golden beards that were supposedly the source of Jason's golden fleece, and learns how shells have been exchanged for human lives, tapped for mind-bending drugs and inspired advances in medical technology. Weaving through these stories are the remarkable animals that build them, creatures with fascinating tales to tell, a myriad of spiralling shells following just a few simple rules of mathematics and evolution.
Shells are also bellwethers of our impact on the natural world. Some species have been overfished, others poisoned by polluted seas; perhaps most worryingly of all, molluscs are expected to fall victim to ocean acidification, a side-effect of climate change that may soon cause shells to simply melt away. But rather than dwelling on what we risk losing, Spirals in Time urges you to ponder how seashells can reconnect us with nature, and heal the rift between ourselves and the living world.
Part of the ALL-NEW LADYBIRD EXPERT SERIES
- Why is it octopuses, and not octopi or octopodes?
- How did octopuses evolve to be so clever?
- How can octopuses see and speak with their skin?
EXAMINE these crafty hunters of the seabed - shape-shifting, skin-signalling and using complex tools - their remarkable abilities are still being uncovered.
BENDY BODIES, BIG BRAINS
Written by celebrated marine biologist and documentarian Helen Scales, Octopuses is an enthralling introduction to these utterly unique creatures, the myths and fiction they have inspired, and what they can tell us about the roots of intelligence.
'Delightful' New Scientist
Seventy per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water. This vast aquatic realm is inhabited by a multitude of strange creatures and reigning supreme among them are the fish.
There are giants that live for centuries and thumb-sized tiddlers that survive only weeks; they can be pancake-flat or inflatable balloons; they can shout with colours or hide in plain sight, cheat and dance, remember and say sorry; some rarely budge while others travel the globe restlessly. And yet the mesmerising and complex lives of fish remain largely underrated and unseen, living hidden beneath the waterline, out of sight and out of mind.
Helen Scales is our guide on an underwater journey, as we fathom the depths and watch these animals going about the glorious business of being fish. As well as the fish, we meet devoted fishwatchers past and present, from voodoo zombie potion hunters and scientists who taught fish how to walk to nonagenarian explorers of the deep sea.
Woven throughout are vignettes of Helen's own aquatic explorations, from eerie nighttime dives with glowing fish and up-close encounters with giant manta rays, to floating in the middle of a swirling shoal being watched by thousands of inquisitive eyes.
As well as being a rich and entertaining read, this book will inspire readers to think again about these animals and the seas they inhabit, and to go out and appreciate the wonders of fish, whether through the glass walls of an aquarium or, better still, by gazing into the fishes' wild world and swimming through it.
'Engaging and informative' The Economist
The second in a series of books in association with the Royal Institution on their world-renowned Christmas Lectures, this time exploring the secrets of the natural world - with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough.
Following on from the success of 13 Journeys Through Space and Time, which took us on a voyage of astronomical discovery through past Christmas Lectures given at the Royal Institution on space and space exploration, this book turns our attention to our own planet and the animals, plants, fish, insects and all the other living things that inhabit it - how they've evolved and the vital roles they play in the intricate webs of life on earth.
Taking eleven of the most exciting and revealing Christmas Lectures on the natural world given at the Royal Institution, including Sir David Attenborough's animal-packed Lectures from 1977 and Richard Dawkins's explosive series on the evolution of life, we take an illuminating look at more than a hundred years of scientific exploration to discover the origins of life on our planet and the mysteries so far uncovered.
Poseidon's Steed trails the seahorse through secluded waters across the globe in a kaleidoscopic history that mirrors man's centuries-old fascination with the animal, sweeping from the reefs of Indonesia, through the back streets of Hong Kong, and back in time to ancient Greece and Rome. Over time, seahorses have surfaced in some unlikely places. We see them immortalized in the decorative arts; in tribal folklore, literature, and ancient myth; and even on the pages of the earliest medical texts, prescribed to treat everything from skin complaints to baldness to flagging libido. Marine biologist Helen Scales eloquently shows that seahorses are indeed fish, though scientists have long puzzled over their exotic anatomy, and their very strange sex lives — male seahorses are the only males in the animal world that experience childbirth!
Our first seahorse imaginings appeared six thousand years ago on cave walls in Australia. The ancient Greeks called the seahorse hippocampus (half-horse, half-fish) and sent it galloping through the oceans of mythology, pulling the sea god Poseidon's golden chariot. The seahorse has even been the center of a modern-day international art scandal: A two-thousand-year-old winged seahorse brooch was plundered by Turkish tomb raiders and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
A book that is as charming as the seahorse itself, Poseidon's Steed brings to life an aquatic treasure.
Seahorses lead quiet lives, tucked away out of sight on the seafloor. It is rare to catch a glimpse of a seahorse in its natural habitat. But even if few have seen one live, these exotic, seemingly prehistoric creatures exist quite vividly in our imaginations and they have mesmerized scientists, artists, and storytellers throughout time with their otherworldly rarity.
Poseidon's Steed is a sweeping journey that takes us from the coral reefs and seagrass meadows of Indonesia where many seahorses makes their natural habitat to the back streets of Hong Kong where a thriving black market seahorse trade is concealed. Throughout history, seahorses have surfaced in some unexpected places and Scales also follows the seahorse back in time, from our most rudimentary seahorse imaginings six thousand years ago on cave walls in Australia, to the myths of ancient Greece.
Scientists have long puzzled over seahorses' unusual anatomy and their very strange sex lives. And male seahorses are the only males in the animal world that experience childbirth! Seahorses are not what scientists call a "keystone" species. They rely on a healthy ocean to survive, but the marine ecosystem does not rely on them. But their delicate beauty reminds us that we rely on the seas not only to fill our dinner plates, but also to feed our imaginations.