261 pages, B/w plates, map
A fascinating journey with the sea creature that has captured human imagination for thousands of years. This book trails the seahorse through secluded waters across the globe in a kaleidoscopic history that mirrors manas centuries-old fascination with the animal, sweeping from the reefs of Indonesia, through the back streets of Hong Kong, and back in time to ancient Greece and Rome.
Over time, seahorses have surfaced in some unlikely places. We see them immortalized in the decorative arts; in tribal folklore, literature, and ancient myth; and even on the pages of the earliest medical texts, prescribed to treat everything from skin complaints to baldness to flagging libido. Marine biologist Helen Scales eloquently shows that seahorses are indeed fish, though scientists have long puzzled over their exotic anatomy, and their very strange sex lives - male seahorses are the only males in the animal world that experience childbirth.
Our first seahorse imaginings appeared six thousand years ago on cave walls in Australia. The ancient Greeks called the seahorse "hippocampus" (half-horse, half-fish) and sent it galloping through the oceans of mythology, pulling the sea god Poseidonas golden chariot. The seahorse has even been the center of a modern-day international art scandal: A two-thousand-year-old winged seahorse brooch was plundered by Turkish tomb raiders and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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Helen Scales is a marine biologist based in Cambridge. Her doctorate involved exploring the reproductive biology of the humphead wrasse, and since then she has tagged sharks in California, catalogued marine life surrounding a hundred islands in the Andaman Sea, and most recently studied the diverse fish that live on coral reefs in the South Pacific. Helen is now a freelance researcher and broadcaster. A major outlet for Helen's explorations is BBC Radio where she is a reporter and presenter on science and natural history programmes, especially on Radio 4 and the World Service. Her credits include regular appearances on Inside Science and Home Planet, numerous one-off documentaries, and a coveted spot on The Museum of Curiosity. Helen is also a long-standing member of the award-winning science communication collective, The Naked Scientists, based at the University of Cambridge. She has also written Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells (2014).