Monday, December 14, 2015

Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life by Susan Middleton

Glorious photographs of strange and colorful lifeforms from the Pacific Ocean invite the reader to skip chapter introductions and simply page through the pictures in this coffee table size book. That would be a mistake as the short chapter introductions set the context for the arrangement of the images. At the end of the book are about twenty pages with interesting facts about the various creatures.

Middleton talks about her work at the Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories in Washington. Through her photographs scientists actually discovered two new species. She explains how she was able to create such vivid portraits. Some pictures simply reveal an exquisite biological design, uniquely adapted to a particular environment. But in others, you feel that something aware is looking back at you. Middleton says of the octopus on the cover, "I'd go so far as to say we developed a kind of rapport."

While these are West Coast organisms, the same phyla are living off our coast and new species are being discovered all the time in places like the Norfolk canyon. Spineless makes the case that all life depends on marine invertebrates and we need to not only celebrate their marvelous designs but also to take care that their environment is not damaged.

If you are interested in more nature photography, try Secret Worlds by Stephen Dalton. 

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL 

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