Spineless by Juli Berwald: a book review

Spineless by Juli Berwald (2017)

I recently read Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald (not to be confused with Spineless by Susan Middleton). Part memoir and part science writing, this book is very well-written, and moderately full of information about the oft-ignored jellyfish clan (some readers will find the combination of autobiography and science not to their liking). The book cover appears to be mostly derived from this Haeckel print:

I myself was fascinated by the jellyfish in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but I did not fall in love with jellyfish the way that Juli Berwald did. This book does not quite do the job either, perhaps because of the distractions of the (not all that compelling) autobiographical material. It also seemed difficult to reconcile the author’s concerns about global warming with her high-carbon lifestyle.

Sea nettles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (photo by “Omegacentrix”)

Still, this book is well worth a read. Other reviews of the book are linked from the author’s Wikipedia article.

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Spineless by Juli Berwald: 3 stars

Spineless: a book to look out for

Spineless by Susan Middleton (October 2014)

Here is a beautifully illustrated book to look out for: Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life, by Susan Middleton.

I have no review, but here are some of the lovely images from the book. Wired and the Smithsonian Magazine have more. It looks fantastic!

Diurnal Migration

… So to the surface fishies travel at night
When there’s less chance of being espied in the light
But during the day to escape predation
They return deeper down, and that’s diurnal migration.

For those who’ve never heard it, this fun song by Hannah Werdmuller about diurnal migration is well worth a listen.

The sonar image above is from a Norwegian study, and shows diurnal migration among helmet jellyfish in a Norwegian fjord (compared to krill). Interestingly, the jellyfish are divided into several sub-populations (1, 2, 3, 4) with different behaviour. Many (but not all) of the jellyfish dive down at sunrise, and rise again at sunset, but even these have different preferred depths.

See also this paper by Stein Kaartvedt, Thor Klevjer, Thomas Torgersen, Tom Sørnes, and Anders Røstad.

A helmet jellyfish (illustration by Edward Adrian Wilson, 1902)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Rear of the Aquarium (photo by “Meij.kobayashi,” public domain)

Continuing the museum theme, one of the world’s best aquaria is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

Kelp forest exhibit (photo by “Daderot,” public domain)

One of the highlights of the Aquarium is an 8.5 metre tall tank which houses a kelp forest exhibit.

Sea nettles (photo by “Omegacentrix”)

For those who cannot travel to Monterey, there are several live web cams providing views of some of the star exhibits.

The sea otters are among the most popular exhibits (photo by Fred Hsu)