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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Jellyfish are, like the mythical Medusa, both beautiful and potentially dangerous. Found from pole to tropic, these mesmeric creatures form an important part of the sea’s plankton and vary in size from the gigantic to the minute. Perceived as almost alien creatures and seen as best avoided, jellyfish nevertheless have the power to fascinate: with the sheer beauty of their translucent bells and long, trailing tentacles, with a mouth that doubles as an anus, and without a head or brain. Drawing upon myth and historical sources as well as modern scientific advances, this book examines our ambiguous relationship with these ancient and yet ill-understood animals, describing their surprisingly complex anatomy, weaponry, and habits, and their vital contributions to the ocean’s ecosystems.

224 pages | 100 color plates | 5 1/4 x 7 1/2


Biological Sciences: Natural History

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“Engaging and handsomely illustrated. . . . Enduring they may be; endearing they are not. Toy jellyfish, after all, are few and far between. ‘Octopuses, yes,’ Williams ruefully acknowledges, but ‘very, very few jellyfish.’ They are too toxic and they look too weird. But, he argues persuasively, if they are ineligible for affection, they at least deserve humanity’s respect.”


"Combing through history, art, and science, Williams tells stories proving that these graceful watery creatures deserve our appreciation even while they elude our understanding."

Mary P. Winsor, IHPST, University of Toronto

Table of Contents


1 A Lineage of Uncertainty
2 Toxic but Fascinating
3 Floats, Eyes and Combs
4 The Illustrator’s Nightmare
5 Jellyfish Culture
6 Light, Death and Immortality
7 World Domination

Appendix 1: A Brief Description of Individual Species of Jellyfish Mentioned in the Text
Appendix 2: Where to see Jellyfish in Captivity
Select Bibliography
Associations, Websites and Apps
Photo Acknowledgements

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