Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean

University of Chicago Press
4
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Our oceans are becoming increasingly inhospitable to life—growing toxicity and rising temperatures coupled with overfishing have led many marine species to the brink of collapse. And yet there is one creature that is thriving in this seasick environment: the beautiful, dangerous, and now incredibly numerous jellyfish. As foremost jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin describes in Stung!, the jellyfish population bloom is highly indicative of the tragic state of the world’s ocean waters, while also revealing the incredible tenacity of these remarkable creatures. Recent documentaries about swarms of giant jellyfish invading Japanese fishing grounds and summertime headlines about armadas of stinging jellyfish in the Mediterranean and Chesapeake are only the beginning—jellyfish are truly taking over the oceans. Despite their often dazzling appearance, jellyfish are simple creatures with simple needs: namely, fewer predators and competitors, warmer waters to encourage rapid growth, and more places for their larvae to settle and grow. In general, oceans that are less favorable to fish are more favorable to jellyfish, and these are the very conditions that we are creating through mechanized trawling, habitat degradation, coastal construction, pollution, and climate change. Despite their role as harbingers of marine destruction, jellyfish are truly enthralling creatures in their own right, and in Stung!, Gershwin tells stories of jellyfish both attractive and deadly while illuminating many interesting and unusual facts about their behaviors and environmental adaptations. She takes readers back to the Proterozoic era, when jellyfish were the top predator in the marine ecosystem—at a time when there were no fish, no mammals, and no turtles; and she explores the role jellies have as middlemen of destruction, moving swiftly into vulnerable ecosystems. The story of the jellyfish, as Gershwin makes clear, is also the story of the world’s oceans, and Stung! provides a unique and urgent look at their inseparable histories—and future.
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About the author

Lisa-ann Gershwin is director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services. She was awarded a Fulbright in 1998 for her studies on jellyfish blooms and evolution, and she has discovered over 150 new species—including at least sixteen types of jellyfish that are highly dangerous, as well as a new species of dolphin—and has written for numerous scientific and popular publications.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
May 7, 2013
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780226020242
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Ecology
Science / Life Sciences / Marine Biology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The new edition of this established textbook, now with full colour illustration, has been extensively revised and continues to provide a comprehensive, stimulating, readable and authoritative coverage of freshwater habitats, their communities and their functioning, the world over. The work will be of great value to undergraduate and graduate students, fellow researchers and water managers, and the plain language and lack of jargon should make it accessible to anyone interested in the functioning and current state of lakes and rivers.

Having taught and researched over fifty years and six continents, Professor Brian Moss makes here extensive use of his personal experience as well as the huge literature now available on freshwaters. This is the fifth edition of his textbook, which, since the first edition in 1980, has steadily evolved to reflect a rapidly changing science and environment. It places increasing emphasis on the role of people in damaging and managing freshwaters as we move into the Anthropocene epoch and face unprecedented levels of climate and other changes, whilst rejoicing in the fascination of what are left of near pristine freshwater ecosystems.

Professor Moss retired from the University of Liverpool following a career in Africa, the USA and the UK. He was awarded medals by the International Society for Limnology, of which he was President from 2007 to 2013, and The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. He was given The Ecology Institute's Excellence in Ecology Prize in 2009 and the book written for that prize, Liberation Ecology, was awarded the British Ecological Society's best ecology book prize in 2013.
In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans. Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food (and in how it is acquired), and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own?

Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.

Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well.
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