The story of jellyfish is a slippery one. Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for over half a billion years—longer than any other animal. Made of roughly 95% water, jellyfish are both virtuosos of disguise, nearly imperceptible against their watery background, and the bearers of a luminescence that revolutionized biotechnology. In the rhythmic movements of their tentacles that carry the threat of a thousand of toxic stings, jellyfish haunt the space between our own heartbeat and mortal danger. Jellyfish are a muse both angelic and demonic.
Years ago, I left oceanography to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas, but jellyfish took me back to the sea. Blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone tells the story of how I learned to navigate and ultimately embrace my ambition, curiosity, and passion for the natural world. I discover that jellyfish science is more than a quest for answers. It’s a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we all share.
“Part travelogue, part memoir, part deep-dive (literally) into the world of jellyfish … Spineless can serve as inspiration for any of us to reclaim a creative space in the midst of family life.”
“The story of jellyfish … is a significant part of the environmental story. Berwald’s engaging account of these delicate, often ignored creatures shows how much they matter to our oceans’ future.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“An astonishingly gorgeous book.”
“A book full of wonders.”
—Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk