The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world--the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents--and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches--to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea's most extreme species, and tells their stories ...

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The Extreme Life of the Sea

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The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world--the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents--and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches--to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea's most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today's leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.

The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world's oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products--such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales--and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.

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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.)
From the Publisher

"The uniqueness of this book is due to the combination of a novel's flair utilizing figurative language and analogies with scientific concepts. . . . The authors seek to help us understand the value, complexity, and vastness of the ocean and the importance of consequences of their actions. I think that this would be an excellent book in a seminar for high school students and biology majors in college."--Jean Worsley, NSTA Recommends

"[The Palumbis] have written about some of the most alien creatures you will ever encounter, and for many of them it is far more pleasant to encounter them on these pages than in real life. Yet as strange as they are, many of them are vital to keeping the oceans in balance, or as indicators of oceans out of balance, and so we ought to know them better. Brightly written, with footnotes but without ponderousness, the Palumbis' book succeeds in inspiring what they say they in their preface that they set out to produce: 'a sense of guiltless wonder about how wonderful the ocean's life actually is.'"--Rob Hardy, Columbus Dispatch

"[A] stimulating and enjoyable read."--Diver Magazine

"Steve Palumbi has got a gift for summarizing complicated issues related to his field, making them both relatable and entertaining. . . . The Extreme Life of the Sea plunges readers into the world of 'the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans.'. . . At the heart of the book, though, the Palumbis stress how marine creatures have managed to adapt and thrive in some of the most punishing environments imaginable. Obviously, there's plenty we can learn from them."--Crystal Chow, San Jose Mercury News

"Extremophiles are fun! Basically, they're the biggest, smallest, hardiest and definitely the oddest bunch of beasties to be found anywhere on this planet. The Palumbi father and son team--one scientist and one writer--bring us this fun little book on the extremophiles of the sea. . . . The best part of the book is that the authors do more than just recite oddball trivia, they really tell the stories of the animals in the book. . . . This is a solid book, very informative and very entertaining but with a strong message."--John Dupuis, Confessions of a Science Librarian

"This engaging book eloquently captures the long history and immense variety of life in the world's oceans, and provides a glimpse into what makes the seas so special. . . . Better than science fiction, this book is filled with amazing stories about amazing creatures. . . . Sweetly enthusiastic, enlightening and witty and, at times, inspired. . . . Regardless of your level of knowledge, this quietly joyful and informative book has something of value for everyone."--GrrlScientist

"Drawing on decades of scientific research as well as a knack for storytelling, the authors convey what happens at the ocean depths without sugarcoating it. . . . It doesn't just shed light on some of the most mysterious workings of the sea; it does so with vivid prose while managing to convey scientists' current understanding of how and why these phenomena operate. If that doesn't make people more invested in preserving the ocean, it's hard to know what will."--Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

"A rare hybrid: a funny and easy-to-read book full of accurate science."--Susan Scott, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

"Marine biologists as well as lay readers with more than a casual interest in marine science will find this an engrossing discussion of what lies beneath the waters, how it's adapted, and threats to this adaptation process."--James A. Cox, California Bookwatch

"Extensive notes and an index round out this fascinating account, enthusiastically recommended for public and college library collections alike."--James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

"Simply a tour de force, a splendid must read for any natural history enthusiast."--Gabriel Thoumi, Mongabay.com

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400849932
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Core Textbook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 205,857
  • File size: 10 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Palumbi is Professor of Biology and Director of the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University. His film projects include the BBC series "The Future Is Wild", the History channel’s "Life after People", and the Short Attention Span Science Theater. His books include "The Death and Life of Monterey Bay" and "The Evolution Explosion". 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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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments: Guiltless Wonder vii
Prologue The Epic Ocean 1
1 The Earliest 5
2 The Most Archaic 19
3 The Smallest 36
4 The Deepest 46
5 The Shallowest 65
6 The Oldest 81
7 The Fastest Sprints and Longest Journeys 94
8 The Hottest 112
9 The Coldest 125
10 The Strangest Family Lives 141
11 Future Extremes 158
Epilogue: A Grand Bargain 175
Notes 179
Index 209
Color figures follow page 84.
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