205 pages, 44 b/w photos, 54 b/w illustrations, 3 tables
Return to the Sea portrays the life and evolutionary times of marine mammals, from giant whales and sea cows that originated 55 million years ago whose ancestors walked on land, to deep diving elephant seals and clam-eating walruses of modern times. This fascinating account of the origin of various marine mammal lineages, some extinct, others extant but threatened, is for the non-specialist.
Set against a backdrop of geologic time, changing climates and geography, evolution is the unifying principle that helps us to understand the present day diversity of marine mammals and their responses to environmental challenges. Berta reveals current controversies presenting a balanced view based on careful evaluation and interpretation of the evidence. She explores patterns of change taking place today, such as shifting food webs and predator-prey relationships, habitat degradation, global warming and the effects of humans on marine mammal communities.
"Wide-ranging and fact-packed [...] [Return to the Sea is an] engaging tour through the highlights of marine mammal history [...] Abundant facts are woven into a compelling story of the history and biology of marine mammals that will delight while it informs readers. Berta writes in an engaging, jargon-free style, which makes the book readily accessible to students and teachers at both the graduate and the undergraduate levels [...] Even specialists who may lack a firm grasp of the evolutionary history of marine mammals can find space on their bookshelf for this volume [...] [Its] lavish illustrations of long-gone species [...] are compelling [...] Admirably up to date [...] As useful as it is stimulating."
– Alexander J. Werth, Bioscience
"A good introduction to marine mammal evolution."
– Ian Paulsen, The Guardian
"Berta did a superb job in bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and the general public [...] Rarely does one have the opportunity to read a book that is written in an enjoyable and accessible way, scientifically accurate, and based in a wide and updated range of literature. Return to the Sea is certainly one of those books."
– Carolina Loch, University of Otago, New Zealand Marine Mammal Science
"The writing is simple and informative, the line drawings and other illustrations are excellent, and we have here a primer of what it is to be a marine animal [...] "
– Bernd Wursig, The Quarterly Review of Biology
"Over the past 55 million years, mammals have returned to the sea many times and in many places. Annalisa Berta leads readers through this parade of transitions, highlighting how marine mammals have met the evolutionary challenge of living an aquatic life in a variety of ways. Return to the Sea weaves ecology, anatomy, and evolution into an ideal entry point for anyone interested in knowing more about one of the most fascinating phenomena in macroevolution."
– Nicholas D. Pyenson, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
"Berta is to be congratulated. She drew on her vast knowledge of marine mammals and their evolution to write an excellent, readable introduction to the group, including the latest discoveries."
– J.G.M. Thewissen, Northeast Ohio Medical University
"This wide-ranging and up-to-date survey of marine mammal biology and evolution is a fine introduction to the subject for undergraduates and anyone interested in mammals of the sea."
– Daryl P. Domning, Howard University
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Annalisa Berta is Professor in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University. She has served as the President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and Associate Editor of the scientific journal Marine Mammal Science.