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Before there were mammals on land, there were dinosaurs. And before there were fish in the sea, there were cephalopods – the ancestors of modern squid and Earth's first truly substantial animals. Cephalopods became the first creatures to rise from the seafloor, essentially inventing the act of swimming. With dozens of tentacles and formidable shells, they presided over an undersea empire for millions of years. But when fish evolved jaws, the ocean's former top predator became its most delicious snack. Cephalopods had to step up their game.
Many species streamlined their shells and added defensive spines, but these enhancements only provided a brief advantage. Some cephalopods then abandoned the shell entirely, which opened the gates to a flood of evolutionary innovations: masterful camouflage, fin-supplemented jet propulsion, perhaps even dolphin-like intelligence.
Squid Empire is an epic adventure spanning hundreds of millions of years, from the marine life of the primordial ocean to the calamari on tonight's menu. Anyone who enjoys the undersea world – along with all those obsessed with things prehistoric – will be interested in the sometimes enormous, often bizarre creatures that ruled the seas long before the first dinosaurs.
- Introduction: Why Squid?
- The World of the Head-Footed
- Rise of the Empire
- A Swimming Revolution
- The Protean Shell
- Sheathing the Shell
- Fall of the Empire
- Where Are They Now?
- Epilogue: Where Are They Going?
Danna Staaf earned a PhD in invertebrate biology from Stanford University. She lives in Northern California and has contributed to KQED, San Francisco, and wrote "Squid a Day" for the blog Science 2.0.
"A book like Squid Empire is a reminder that in any scientific narrative, there are always two stories at play. There is the history of the subject you're studying, and then there is the history of its discovery."
– New Republic
"Staaf captures what is rarely seen outside the ivory tower: scientists talking among themselves with a touch of irreverence. Researchers everywhere will surely relate."
"Staaf's approach is short and sweet, well-illustrated and strong on playful narrative [...] I loved this book."
"Intriguing [...] This in-depth coverage of an often neglected but ecologically vital group will change your view of squid, octopuses and their relatives, and make eating calamari feel like cannibalism."
– New Scientist
"Cephs rule! Squid Empire, like its protagonists, is nimble, fast, surprising, smart, and weird in the very coolest sense of the word. What could be more fun than jetting back in time to primordial seas with the monsters who really ruled our planet? In these pages, Danna Staaf makes every dino-lover and every undersea adventurer's dream come true. It's a fabulous read with squishy, slimy delight on every page."
– Sy Montgomery, New York Times-bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
"This crystal-clear book will open your world to wider horizons and much deeper times [...] Long before vertebrates evolved anything like higher intelligence, squids and octopuses were on a separate track to versatility, problem-solving, individual recognition, and deceit. Before we can know who we are, we must know who we are here with, and who has come before us."
– Carl Safina, New York Times-bestselling author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
"This engaging book may do for early cephalopods what paleontologists did for dinosaurs in the 1960s: spark a public renaissance of appreciation for these magnificent creatures who once ruled the seas."
– Jennifer Ouellette, author of Me, Myself and Why and The Calculus Diaries