The Extreme Life of the Sea

The Extreme Life of the Sea

by Stephen R. Palumbi, Anthony R. Palumbi

View All Available Formats & Editions

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


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.

An enhanced edition is also available and includes eleven videos.

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
"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

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.

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
10 MB

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >