Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Life

Overview

Two-thirds of this planet is covered by water inhabited by an incredible variety of living organisms, ranging in size from microbe to whale, and in abundance from scarce to uncountable. Whales and dolphins must surface to breathe, and some fishes occupy surface waters and can easily be seen from boats or shore, but most of the marine bio-profusion is hidden from human eyes, often under thousands of feet and millions of tons of water, which is usually cold, dark, and utterly inhospitable to humans. By definition, ...

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Overview

Two-thirds of this planet is covered by water inhabited by an incredible variety of living organisms, ranging in size from microbe to whale, and in abundance from scarce to uncountable. Whales and dolphins must surface to breathe, and some fishes occupy surface waters and can easily be seen from boats or shore, but most of the marine bio-profusion is hidden from human eyes, often under thousands of feet and millions of tons of water, which is usually cold, dark, and utterly inhospitable to humans. By definition, the study of marine life has been quantitatively and qualitatively different from the study of terrestrial life—it is, if you will, a different kettle of fish. What do we know today, how have we learned it, and what remains unknown and unknowable about inner space?

Because there have been so few human visitors to the uninviting world of the deep sea, scientists have had to rely on trawled specimens, photographs taken by robotic cameras, or occasionally, observations from deep-diving submersibles, to get even the vaguest idea of the nature of life in the abyss. So far, even our most elaborate efforts to penetrate the blackness have produced only minimal results. It is as if someone lowered a collecting basket from a balloon high above the tropical rain forest floor, and tried to analyze the nature of life in the jungle from a couple of random hauls. The inner space of the deep offers the last frontier on the planet. Even now, we know more about the back side of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean, but then the surface of the moon is not hidden under miles of impenetrable water. But we do know that living in this inaccessible medium are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth.

An understanding of the interrelationships between various creatures-including the one predator that has the power to distort, damage, or even eliminate populations of marine animals-is necessary if we are to survive in harmony with these populations. Although new technologies have given us tools to better census the whales, dolphins, and fishes, and to see heretofore unexpected life and geological forms deep under the sea, we are a long way from comprehending the nature and importance of marine biodiversity. Singing Whales, Flying Squid, and Swimming Cucumbers is an attempt to put the search for knowledge into perspective-to try to find out how we got here, and where, with the help of curiosity, science, and technology, we might be headed. With this as our Baedeker, we will voyage through time and space, tracing the history of the discovery of marine biology, from the moment that the first scientists—although for the most part, "science" had barely been invented—tried to figure out what sorts of creatures lived in the Mediterranean, the sea right off their shores.

So join Richard Ellis on an underwater adventure like no other you've ever taken or heard of: a voyage to discover the mysteries and reveal the wonders of marine life—more unusual and more astonishing than you—or anyone else—ever imagined.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In Singing Whales and Flying Squid (great title!), Richard Ellis offers the story of the past, present, and future of marine biology, from the earliest ichthyologists through the discovery of the hydrothermal vents—surely the most astonishing event in recent biology and geology—and beyond. Here we learn of the latest innovations in underwater acoustic remote sensing and the use of unmanned submersibles in identifying new and wonderful animals. Add this beautifully illustrated book to Ellis's already impressive catalog of studies of marine life.—Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, Beast, and Shark Trouble
 
"Richard Ellis is one of our Great Explainers, a writer and artist whose passion for research knows no equal and without whom the sea and its inhabitants would be far less known to us. Singing Whales and Flying Squid is an eloquent account of our attempts to grasp the mysterious, frightening, but, especially, beautiful oceans that give the Blue Planet color, character, and life."—Brad Matsen,author of Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss
 
"Cracking the ocean's 'code,' we learn in this erudite and highly readable book, is every bit as challenging as that of DNA. From the majestic swordfish to the invisible plankton, the ancient Greeks to contemporary discoverers of thermal vents, Richard Ellis takes us on a dramatic voyage deep into our undersea realm—and imparts that the more we learn about its mysteries, the greater our responsibility toward its inhabitants, many of whom have never been more threatened by the practices of human beings.—Dick Russell, author of Eye of the Whale and Striper Wars

 

"In this captivating new book Richard Ellis takes us on a compelling journey through the World Ocean, a place at once familiar yet the least well known part of our planet. Interestingly, Ellis takes as his muse the Census of Marine Life initiative—a massive undertaking to document all of marine life. The CoML is every bit as ambitious as the human Genome Project and is proving to be much, much harder to complete. As this book so powerfully demonstrates, the World Ocean is so vast, so full of life, and yet still so poorly known."—Melanie Stiassny, Curator of Fishes, American Museum of Natural History
 

"Here, Ellis is in full command. This richly presented, thoroughly researched, easy-to-read book will bring anyone, young or old, up to date on what's up with what's down below."—Carl Safina, PhD, president of the Blue Ocean Institute and author of Song for the Blue Ocean

"Singing Whales and Flying Squid might be Ellis's best book so far because it has it all. From astounding tales of mad, killer swordfish to the truth about Chilean Sea Bass, Ellis engages the reader at every turn. It's a dream menu for anyone with an interest in the sea."—Ray Troll, illustrator of Planet Ocean

 “A forthcoming book by the noted naturalist Richard Ellis, “Singing Whales and Flying Squid” (Lyons Press, 2006), (depicts) recent discoveries of previously unknown whales, dolphins and other creatures.”
Booklist “Ellis, well-know marine researcher, has written an eminently readable look…illustrated throughout with Ellis’ marvelous drawings, this book will awaken the reader to the wonders of the oceans.”—New York Times
 

 “Ellis, well-know marine researcher, has written an eminently readable look…illustrated throughout with Ellis’ marvelous drawings, this book will awaken the reader to the wonders of the oceans.”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592288427
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 999,311
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Ellis is the author of sixteen books, including Men and Whales, Deep Atlantic, The Search for the Giant Squid, and The Empty Ocean. A research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Ellis is also a celebrated artist whose paintings and drawings of marine life have been exhibited at museums around the world.

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