The Extreme Life of the Sea

Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-691-14956-1
Highlighting the strangest cases in animate sea life, marine ecologist S.R. Palumbi exudes a palpable and contagious sense of delight as he enlists his writer son’s help to fill the “gap in character development” in the story of the ocean’s robust yet fragile ecosystems. The diversity of the Burgess Shale is evidence that, given enough space, evolution can run wild beyond imagination, with adaptions emerging to exploit every possible niche. The Palumbis dig into every corner: ancient body forms like the horseshoe crab that still exist today; inhabitants of deep hydrothermal vents whose metabolisms are based on sulfur or tolerance of extreme heat or pressure; fauna that thrives in the iciest open Arctic waters; and species with strange extremes in their reproductive cycles. By showing how each creature is so tightly tied to its environment, the authors are able to effectively demonstrate how small human-driven changes to the oceans disrupt a complex system developed over millions of years. The Palumbis encourage a childlike curiosity by showing us the amazing diversity of life down below, and perhaps our inner children will pester our grownup selves into doing what needs to be done to keep these habitats intact. Color, halftone, b&w illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/27/2014
Release date: 02/01/2014
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