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The Extreme Life of the Sea

The Extreme Life of the Sea

by Stephen R. Palumbi

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"The oceans are our most precious treasure, full of creatures and stories more fantastic than any science fiction. The Extreme Life of the Sea is a fascinating exploration of this vast mysterious universe. Wonderfully written, it will grab you from page one and carry you all the way through. A must-read for everyone."—Philippe Cousteau



"The oceans are our most precious treasure, full of creatures and stories more fantastic than any science fiction. The Extreme Life of the Sea is a fascinating exploration of this vast mysterious universe. Wonderfully written, it will grab you from page one and carry you all the way through. A must-read for everyone."—Philippe Cousteau

"This book brims with fascinating tales of life in the sea, told with freshness, wit, and verve. Simply wonderful."—Callum Roberts, author of The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea

"The Extreme Life of the Sea will reignite your fascination with how much life lives beneath the waves. This is extreme-ly good reading."—Randy Olson, author of Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style

"What better way to learn about life in the ocean—and how we are changing it—than through stories of blind zombie worms, immortal jellyfish, and unicorns of the sea? The Extreme Life of the Sea is an insightful book that inspires awe and wonder about our ocean, and brilliantly shows us the immense possibilities of life on Earth."—Enric Sala, explorer-in-residence, National Geographic

"The Extreme Life of the Sea is filled with wonder and appreciation for what lives in that most mysterious realm on Earth. We travel to the furthest points of the conceptual compass—the biggest, smallest, oldest, fastest, and hottest. By crisscrossing these polarities, we sense how far life has come and see the extremes to which life has gone. Pure pleasure."—Carl Safina, author of The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World

"The Extreme Life of the Sea reveals some of the amazing aspects of ocean life and why we should care. This accessible book will inspire a broad audience—and with any luck help to inspire change. The authors have done a superb job of communicating much of what is special about the ocean."—Paul V. R. Snelgrove, author of Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life: Making Ocean Life Count

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Stephen R. Palumbi (director, Hopkins Marine Lab, Stanford Univ.; Death and Life of Monterey Bay) and science writer Anthony Palumbi, his son, describe sea creatures that live in extremes: hot, cold, deep (i.e., under high pressure), shallow (i.e., subject to exposure), or have extreme lives: most long-lived, most primitive, smallest, fastest, longest annual migration, or possessing unique reproduction behaviors. They provide an appreciation of the survival skills and variety of ocean life similar to Ellen Prager's Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime but address a broader selection of species. Stephen keeps the science accurate, and Anthony, presumably, keeps it readable. The use of contemporary references, e.g., to classic Volkswagons, The Return of the Jedi, Miley Cyrus movies, "Shark week" on television, Ray Allen's jump shots, etc., are used as examples for a general readership but will date the material. This is unfortunate as the book effectively tells not only about the animals but why they are important to humankind. The authors provide solid historical context from Darwin's extrapolation that microbes existed when he could not prove them, to issues about current CO2 levels, and end with a hopeful look to the future. A glossary would have been helpful; the index was not seen. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in marine science, odd facts, and the environment.—Jean E. Crampon, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles, Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
An exploration of the sea, "our most fertile stage, populated by wonderfully colorful characters acting out their lives in a daily drama." Stephen R. Palumbi (Marine Biology/Stanford Univ.; The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change, 2001, etc.) and his son, science writer Anthony R. Palumbi, explain that they have chosen to write about how life flourishes under the most extreme conditions in order to demonstrate "what life is fully capable of." They begin in 1909 with the discovery of the Burgess Shale, a quarry in British Columbia where the fossilized remains of more than 65,000 marine creatures were discovered. The odd assortment of creatures that lived around 505 million years ago proved to be truly eye-opening for the scientists who discovered them—"hard to fit into the normal taxonomy of living invertebrates [with bodies] like unique jalopies assembled from random spare parts." Out of this assembly of creatures, through the process of natural selection, life as we know it today evolved. The authors profile today's inhabitants of the planet's oceans, beginning with "single-celled organisms too small to see with the naked eye," which nonetheless play an important ecological role in the chemistry of oceans and the food chain. The Palumbis probe life in the depths of the oceans and in tidewaters in successive chapters spotlighting the long-lived Bowhead whale; sea species that adapt to extremely high temperatures and others to cold; clownfish, which change gender, becoming male or female as circumstances dictate; and much more. The authors end with a warning that the oceans contain a complex ecology in which each species "thrives in its easily disrupted specialized niche." Global warming and pollution threaten the destruction of marine life as we know it. A sparkling appreciation of the wonderful variety of marine life that also communicates an important message.
From the Publisher
"Every page of this wonderful book is filled with nuggets of information. It becomes quite clear that we all must strive to protect this vast pool of life that enables our own lives to continue."Explorers Journal

"One of the most informative books I've ever read."—Al Ristori, Newark Star-Ledger

"Only the strong survive, it is said, but The Extreme Life of the Sea makes a good case for the strange, the efficient, and the ugly. . . . [A]n engaging blend. Stanford professor Stephen serves up the heavier science of DNA and physiology, seasoned with a sprightly narrative, some scene-setting and humor from novelist Anthony. Extreme Life uses Guinness Record-like chapters to discuss the smallest, the deepest, the shallowest and the coldest marine life-forms."—Melissa Davis, Seattle Times

"[B]eautifully descriptive and refreshingly free of technical terms. Here is a book that will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the biology of the seas, whatever their level of scientific education."—Anthony O'Toole, Sherkin Comment

"This is a scientifically rich book that is also a good read and would be appropriate for a wide range of audiences."AAAS

"[W]ell worth purchasing. . . . [The Extreme Life of the Sea] is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the seas and their creatures from the earliest ages to the present."—Al Ristori, Newark Star-Ledger

Product Details

Princeton University Press
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6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Palumbi is Professor of Biology and Director of the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University. Anthony R. Palumbi, Stephen's son, is a science writer and novelist whose work has appeared in the Atlantic and other publications.

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