In Search of Nautilus: Three Centuries of Scientific Adventures in the Deep Pacific to Capture a Prehistoric, Living Fossil

Peter Douglas Ward, Author Simon & Schuster $19.45 (238p) ISBN 978-0-671-61951-0
Nautilus was known in antiquity (Aristotle may have been the first to describe it), and its shell was a curio for centuries. Scientific inquiry began in the mid-1600s, but specimens for study were scarce and poorly preserved and the secrets of its buoyancy mechanism and embryonic development continued to mystify researchers. In 1895, English biologist Arthur Willey sailed to the Pacific for a three-year, on-site study; he was only partially successful, but his report on nautilus physiology was a major source of information and remains a classic. After Willey, nautilus research lay nearly dormant until 1960; since then, scientists have probed practically every facet of nautilus development. Ward, a zoologist/geologist at the University of Washington, here writes an engaging chapter in the history of science. He takes us to remote Pacific islands where we observe scientists at work, share their excitement of discovery. There is a great deal of technical detail on nautilus physiology, but readers with an interest in invertebrates will still enjoy the adventurous side of this study and the orderly progress of scientific investigation. (August)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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