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Ocean Bestiary

Meeting Marine Life from Abalone to Orca to Zooplankton

Ocean Bestiary

Meeting Marine Life from Abalone to Orca to Zooplankton

A delightful A-to-Z menagerie of the sea—whimsically illustrated, authoritative, and thought-provoking.
For millennia, we have taken to the waves. And yet, for humans, the ocean remains our planet’s most inaccessible region, the place about which we know the least. From A to Z, abalone to zooplankton, and through both text and original illustrations, Ocean Bestiary is a celebration of our ongoing quest to know the sea and its creatures.
Focusing on individual species or groups of animals, Richard J. King embarks upon a global tour of ocean wildlife, including beluga whales, flying fish, green turtles, mako sharks, noddies, right whales, sea cows (as well as sea lions, sea otters, and sea pickles), skipjack tuna, swordfish, tropicbirds, walrus, and yellow-bellied sea snakes. But more than this, King connects the natural history of ocean animals to the experiences of people out at sea and along the world’s coastlines. From firsthand accounts passed down by the earliest Polynesian navigators to observations from Wampanoag clamshell artists, African-American whalemen, Korean female divers (or haenyeo), and today’s pilots of deep-sea submersibles—and even to imaginary sea expeditions launched through poems, novels, and paintings—Ocean Bestiary weaves together a diverse array of human voices underrepresented in environmental history to tell the larger story of our relationship with the sea. Sometimes funny, sometimes alarming, but always compelling, King’s vignettes reveal both how our perceptions of the sea have changed for the better and how far we still have to go on our voyage.

320 pages | 93 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 | © 2023

Oceans in Depth

History: Environmental History

History of Science


“At a time when the wonders of marine life need as many compassionate advocates as possible, Ocean Bestiary engages readers in the ocean’s intricacies and significance, by telling curious, at times humorous stories of its animals as seen through the eyes of people who have spent time at sea—observing, sailing, fishing, and studying often in remote, unseen parts of the planet. The diversity of storytellers and human characters—with a particular focus on people from non-Western, non-white ethnic backgrounds—helps us to see that the ocean is for everyone. Fresh, accessible, and with entertaining illustrations, these are stories worth telling and well told.”

Helen Scales, author of "The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It"

"King profiles marine animals and tells of their notable encounters with humans, spanning Polynesian voyagers’ first contact with New Zealand sea lions around 1200 CE through to a Japanese biologist’s successful efforts to photograph a living giant squid in 2004. Some of the more amusing entries describe how a 1920s sea turtle hunter’s practice of carving his initials into turtle shells inspired a marine biologist to conduct tagging studies on the animals’ migration, as well as how whale sharks eat by ingesting krill-filled ocean water that gets filtered through 'twenty spongy, porous pads in the shark’s throat.' . . . Charming illustrations."

Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

Series Editors’ Foreword: Oceans in Depth
World Map
Architeuthis dux
Chinstrap Penguin
Electric Ray
Flying Fish
Green Turtle
Guanay Cormorant
Isurus oxyrinchus
Juan Fernández Crawfish
Killer Whale
Louisiana Shrimp
Mother Carey’s Chicken
New Zealand Sea Lion
Paper Nautilus
Pilot Fish
Right Whale
Sea Cow
Sea Pickle
Silver King
Teredo Shipworm
Velella and the Man-of-War
Wandering Albatross
Whale Shark
Xiphias gladius
Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
Selected Bibliography

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