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

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

by Juli Berwald

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Overview

"A book full of wonders" —Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk

"Witty, insightful. . . .The story of jellyfish. . . is a significant part of the environmental story. Berwald's engaging account of these delicate, often ignored creatures shows how much they matter to our oceans' future." —New York Times Book Review 


Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than any other animal that lives on the planet. They make a venom so toxic it can kill a human in three minutes. Their sting—microscopic spears that pierce with five million times the acceleration of gravity—is the fastest known motion in the animal kingdom. Made of roughly 95 percent water, some jellies are barely perceptible virtuosos of disguise, while others glow with a luminescence that has revolutionized biotechnology. Yet until recently, jellyfish were largely ignored by science, and they remain among the most poorly understood of ocean dwellers.

More than a decade ago, Juli Berwald left a career in ocean science to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas, but jellyfish drew her back to the sea. Recent, massive blooms of billions of jellyfish have clogged power plants, decimated fisheries, and caused millions of dollars of damage. Driven by questions about how overfishing, coastal development, and climate change were contributing to a jellyfish population explosion, Juli embarked on a scientific odyssey. She traveled the globe to meet the biologists who devote their careers to jellies, hitched rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raised jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marveled at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders.

Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless is the story of how Juli learned to navigate and ultimately embrace her ambition, her curiosity, and her passion for the natural world. She discovers that jellyfish science is more than just a quest for answers. It’s a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735211285
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 175,689
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York TimesNatureNational Geographic, and Slate. She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter.

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Excerpted from "Spineless"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Juli Berwald.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Planula

1 If You Dare 3

Polyp

2 What's Your Agenda? 21

3 Jellyfish Salad 41

4 Missing Polyp 53

5 In Jelly Genes 67

6 Robojelly 83

7 Seeing What's Not There 95

8 Day-glo Jellies 109

9 Jellyfish Sense 121

10 The Nerve of the Jellyfish 131

11 Life's Limits 147

Strobila

12 The Bottom of the Wave 165

Ephyra

13 Stop Waiting 183

14 Sacred Island 197

15 Stalking the Beast 207

16 Jellyfish al Dente 215

17 Jellyfishing 225

Medusa

18 Toxic Cocktail 243

19 Sting Block 257

20 In Medusa's Blood 267

21 Party Like a Jellyfish 283

22 Bloom 295

Acknowledgments 307

Notes 311

Index 327

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