Reading Diary: The Extreme Life of the Sea by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi

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.

And literally, the book covers all the various sea creatures from the oldest to the smallest, to the ones that live in scalding hot conditions to those that live in the coldest conditions, so cold that the blood of normal creatures would freeze. We see the ones with the craziest migration patterns, the oddest family structures, the most sex changes, the most like "living fossils", the ones that live in the deepest water and the ones in the shallowest.

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, a bit reminiscent of Rachel Carson's Under the Sea-Wind. If I have any criticism of the book, it's that it could have gone even further in that direction.

But make no mistake, this is by no means an oddball trivia/heartwarming Disney animal story book. As much as it seems like it might go there at times, at the end of the day the message is very strongly environmental. These creatures belong in the ocean. They are part of our planet and we as the human species need to become better stewards of the oceans. Loud and clear, the message is that we are the most extremely destructive species. If we want to continue to enjoy the bounty of the sea we need to do our part. The final chapter really ties all those environmental threads together. The ocean is cool and interesting and quirky. But it isn't ours. Human activity is putting extreme pressure on all the species in the seas.

This is a solid book, very informative and very entertaining but with a strong message. It would fit well in any academic library that collects popular science, especially around environmental concerns. The book is perhaps most appropriate for public libraries where just about any size library would find this a useful addition to their science collections. High school libraries might also find an eager audience for the rather bizarro quality this book exudes.

Palumbi, Stephen R. and Anthony R. Palumbi. The Extreme Life of the Sea. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. 256pp. ISBN-13: 978-0691149561

(Review copy provided by publisher.)


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