WASHINGTON (Sept. 16, 2010)—The astonishing diversity of ocean life is celebrated in a new book from National Geographic, CITIZENS OF THE SEA: Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life (National Geographic Books; ISBN: 978-1-4262-0643-6; Sept. 14, 2010; $25; hardcover).
Written by renowned marine scientist Nancy Knowlton, the book is an irresistible plunge into the ocean depths as it reveals hundreds of the sea’s most intriguing residents, captured in full-color action by photographers from National Geographic, the Census of Marine Life and other notable underwater experts. Many of the images have never before been published.
Knowlton’s fun and reader-friendly text addresses such topics as the homes, movements, mating rituals, social dynamics, feeding habits, defense mechanisms and predation of sea creatures. Readers will discover where unusual names originate, such as the Bob Marley worm (Bobmarleya gadensis), named for its “dreadlock” tentacles, and the giant clam Tridacna gigas, so named from the Greek for something so large that three bites are needed to eat it. Also highlighted are amazing camouflage strategies of certain creatures, like the kelp crab that lives in kelp, looks like kelp and even has a few hooks for attaching kelp to its body; and squid, octopus and cuttlefish that can change their color to match in a new background in a matter of seconds. Knowlton also describes fearsome predators and their weapons of choice, from the shrimp that can break through the glass wall of an aquarium to the long, insidious worm that paralyzes its prey with toxic slime.
Jam-packed with fascinating facts, the book breaks new ground with details gathered from the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year global initiative to study the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans. The census began in 2000, and the results will be released later this year.
Among the intriguing facts:
- At 200 tons — twice the weight of the largest dinosaurs — the blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on the planet.
- The smallest fish is less than one-third of an inch long and weighs a mere 7/100,000th of an ounce.
- There may be a billion types of bacteria in the ocean. There can be 20,000 different kinds in just a quart of seawater.
- The claw of a mantis shrimp moves as fast as a .22-caliber bullet.
- Antarctic icefish have antifreeze in their bodies.
- Seals use their whiskers to feel objects the way monkeys use their hands.
- Seaweed products can be found in everything from toothpaste to chocolate milk.
- Coral reefs are the rain forests of the sea. Up to one-third of all ocean species live on reefs, even though if reefs were squashed together, they would all fit into an area the size of Texas.
- Cone snails are walking pharmacies, each containing hundreds of potential drugs.
- Herring mate in schools that can be 25 feet long.
In his foreword to the book, National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala writes, “Drawing on the many discoveries of the Census of Marine Life, Nancy Knowlton’s book explores all the key issues — the diversity of ocean life and why it matters, how ocean creatures make a living, how we are changing life in the ocean, and what we can do to keep the ocean healthy. Nancy’s deep knowledge of the sea and its citizens, gained by thousands of hours studying them underwater, is a gift to the reader.”
About the Author
Nancy Knowlton is the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a scientific leader of the Census of Marine Life. She founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, San Diego. Knowlton has devoted her life studying, celebrating and striving to protect the multitude of life-forms that call the sea home. She lives in Washington, D.C.