cover image Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

Juli Berwald. Riverhead, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1126-1

Combining humor and passion, science textbook writer Berwald investigates the strange world of the jellyfish in this captivating and informative science memoir. She reveals the ways these seemingly simple creatures are far more complex than many people imagine, examining how they communicate, how some sense light without eyes, and how some are virtually immortal. Berwald interviews leading jellyfish scientists around the world while sharing some of her own experiences with the animals, including searching for blooms in the eastern Mediterranean and tasting some at home in Austin, Tex. Her message transcends jellyfish themselves: Berwald makes clear that researching jellyfish “is not just to look at a creature unfamiliar and bizarre to most, but to study the planet and our place in it.” As oceans acidify and fisheries crash from overuse, jellyfish populations appear to be expanding: clogging cooling systems of power plants, disrupting tourism, and further damaging fish stock. Yet Berwald makes clear that the oceans are incredibly complex ecosystems and scientists aren’t fully certain what role jellyfish play, only that they are a critical component of the environment. Berwald details how focusing on jellyfish expanded her own intellectual horizons and she tells some awfully good stories along the way. [em]Agent: Mollie Glick, Creative Artists. (Nov.) [/em]