Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist

Popular Science

By: Eugene H Kaplan (Author)

271 pages, 150 b/w illustrations

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Dec 2006 | #160405 | ISBN: 0691125600
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £21.95 $27/€25 approx

About this book

Learning marine biology from a textbook is one thing. But take readers to the bottom of the sea in a submarine to discover living fossils or to coral reefs to observe a day in the life of an octopus, and the sea and its splendors come into focus, in brilliant colors and with immediacy.

In Sensuous Seas, Eugene Kaplan offers readers an irresistibly irreverent voyage to the world of sea creatures, with a look at their habitats, their beauty and, yes, even their sex lives. A marine biologist who has built fish farms in Africa and established a marine laboratory in Jamaica, Kaplan takes us to oceans across the world to experience the lives of their inhabitants, from the horribly grotesque to the exquisitely beautiful. In chapters with titles such as "Fiddler on the Root" (reproductive rituals of fiddler crabs) and "Size Does Count" (why barnacles have the largest penis, comparatively, in the animal kingdom), Kaplan ventures inside coral reefs to study mating parrotfish; dives 740 feet in a submarine to find living fossils; explains what results from swallowing a piece of living octopus tentacle; and describes a shark attack on a friend.

The book is a sensuous blend of sparkling prose and 150 beautiful illustrations that clarify the science. Each chapter opens with an exciting personal anecdote that leads into the scientific exploration of a distinct inhabitant of the sea world--allowing the reader to experience firsthand the incredible complexity of sea life.

A one-of-a-kind memoir that unfolds in remarkable reaches of ocean few of us can ever visit for ourselves, Sensuous Seas brings the underwater world back to living room and classroom alike. Readers will be surprised at how much marine biology they have learned while being amused.

"Eugene H. Kaplan has been teaching marine biology for half a century, and shares his experience of bringing the subject alive [...] Each of the 31 chapters opens with either one of Kaplan's own memoirs or a scenario from his imagination, before exploring the marine biology behind the tale [...] [T]he entertainment seldom flags. Kaplan's book conveys the breadth and excitement of an education in marine biology [...] [T]here is no stronger recommendation that I could make."
– Jon Copley, Nature

"Eugene H. Kaplan has a well-developed sense of humor, delving amusingly yet seriously into such topics as the sex life of squids [...] and the future of sea horses."
– Martin Levin, Toronto Globe and Mail

"With vivid writing, a sense of humor and truly fascinating creatures to work with, Kaplan creates a feel for the teeming sea and rouses a sense of wonder in his readers. Line drawings in each chapter illustrate the creatures and their life cycles. This is a book for people with even a small bit of curiosity about the hidden world around them."
– Lynn Harnett, Portsmouth Herald

"From this collection of short stories, a theme emerges. Kaplan guides readers to appreciate the remarkably diverse web of life that has evolved and continues to evolve in an ever-changing ocean environment [...] Sensuous Seas informs and challenges, one fascinating tale after another."
– Fred Bortz, Arkansas Democrat Gazette

"Eugene Kaplan's thirty-one chapters deliver concise and beautifully illustrated accounts of life-form specialization, symbiotic survival techniques, and unique mating rituals [...] Kaplan gives us the immense diversity of marine life, distinctively expressed in form, coloration, habitat (water, sand, rock, coral), and life patterns (aggressive or passive, independent or parasitic), opening up a universe."
– Peter Skinner, ForeWord

"This book spells out in evocative yet scientifically accurate ways, the mysteries, the drama, the variations, yes even the day-to-day lives of organisms in the sea [...] [It presents] a new world of possibilities about how to hook your students into studying the fascinating stories that organisms in the sea have to offer as well as some of the questions for which there are as yet no answers."
American Biology Teacher

"All combined, Kaplan's writing appeals to the story lover, the scientist and anyone who just wants to know how crabs get it on."
Seattle Magazine

"Sensuous Seas contains a wealth of stimulating and digestible information. This book is also beautifully produced and will be an attractive asset to any marine library."
– Tim Ecott, Aquatic Mammals

"Kaplan actually does the things that many others will ultimately have left on their 'to do' lists. He chases octopuses with his students, dives to the edge of the abyss in a research submarine, and eats things most travelers would never consider. He is part Indiana Jones, part Richard Feynman, and part Woody Allen."
– Paul Billeter, College of Southern Maryland

"Highly entertaining. This book really is a celebration of biodiversity."
– John Kricher, Wheaton College


Preface: What Is a Marine Biologist? vii
Acknowledgments ix
Apologia xi
Prologue: The Perils of Teaching 1

Chapter 1. Deadly Darts 3
Chapter 2. The Great Jade Green Octopus Hunt 9
Chapter 3. Bedtime Stories 20
Chapter 4. Garden of Eden: The Death Apple and the Tree of Life 29
Chapter 5. A True Romance Story 36
Chapter 6. Elixir of Love 46
Chapter 7. Skinny South Sea Sausages 52
Chapter 8. The Only Male Reproductive Organ with a Name 59
Chapter 9. Living Lance 66
Chapter 10. Role Reversal 74
Chapter 11. Super Male 83
Chapter 12. Miracle Fish 89
Chapter 13. Fugu 99
Chapter 14. Bunnies of the Sea 107
Chapter 15. Passion for Purple 116
Chapter 16. Size Does Count 122
Chapter 17. Fiddler on the Root 131
Chapter 18. Beware the Duppy 138
Chapter 19. The Secret of an Improved Sex Life 145
Chapter 20. How to Court a Female 152
Chapter 21. The Anti-BLB Club 159
Chapter 22. Sea Pussy 166
Chapter 23. Debunking the Big Lie 176
Chapter 24. A Peek into the Anus of a Sea Cucumber 183
Chapter 25. The Yellow Submarine 190
Chapter 26. The Perils of Vanity 200
Chapter 27. Sexually Repressed Victorian Taxonomists 206
Chapter 28. Random Ramblings on Relationships 214
Chapter 29. Penile Bloodletting 222
Chapter 30. Death and Confusion 232
Chapter 31. Eyeball to Eyeball 242

Epilogue 253
Glossary 257
Illustration Sources 264
Index 265

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Eugene H. Kaplan is Axinn Distinguished Professor of Conservation and Ecology at Hofstra University. A recipient of the Herman Melville award for writing on marine subjects, he is the author of nine books, including Problem Solving in Biology and two Peterson Field Guides, one on coral reefs of the Caribbean and the other on seashores of the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

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