Jellyfish Far and Wide

I’m pinching myself. SPINELESS is out in the world, and it’s been getting some incredible coverage. I’m going to give a rundown here, because each one of these shout-outs about jellyfish and our oceans’ health means so much to me. And what’s more, the variety of places where SPINELESS is showing up is beyond my wildest dreams. I want to give an enormous thank you to my incomparable publicist Glory Anne Plata at Riverhead, who spread the news of SPINELESS far and wide. Back in August, Publisher’s Weekly gave SPINELESS a starred review! And then, they also put it on the list of “Fall’s Most Anticipated Books.” Right next to Oliver Sacks! And I was so delighted when Kirkus Reviews–a magazine I get at home and read enviously (because I have wanted to be an author for so long)–published a truly beautiful write up. UPDATE: And then […]

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SPINELESS!

There’s the cover! And wow, could it be any more beautiful? The stunning colors and elegant layout came from my publisher Riverhead books and the jellyfish drawings are by Ernst Haeckel, an Austrian naturalist/jellyfish expert/philosopher/physician/artist who lived in the late 1800s. If you haven’t ever seen Haeckel’s book of drawings called Kunstformen der Natur, or Art Forms of Nature, take a look. It’s one of those works that will stick with you for a long time. You might even start to see his drawings on Etsy products and in random gift shops because they are still so inspiring. Haeckel had the incredible ability to render the most unnoticed creatures on our planet in exquisite grandeur. But despite his inimitable faculty with the drawing pen, Haeckel did have his flaws. Toward the end of his life, he was criticized by the science community for his staunch ideas […]

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The Curious Case of the Jellyfish Curator

I’m just back from the Netherlands, where bikes rule the road but canals force all the roads to meander and curve so you are never quite sure where you’re headed. I was lucky enough to have the chance to give a talk about jellyfish at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, one of the oldest natural history museums in Europe and home to a collection an astonishing 42 million strong. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for all the items stored in the collection and the amazing people who work on them, all the collections are closed until 2018 for a big remodel. But I was able to hunt in the electronic archives and found out that the holotype (the specimen that defines a species) of the nomadic jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica) that I swam through in Israel is deposited there. I also had a chance to tour the Naturalis’ extensive botanical collection–about three-quarters of a million […]

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Invertebrate Intermission

It’s been a while since I posted here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy with the jellies. Starting around Christmas, I went through an intense fact-checking/end-noting process with Spineless. I found that I could get through about a five pages a day–and the book is around 300 pages long. It was butt-in-the-chair, back-aching kind of work, rereading all the journal articles I’d used; relistening to all the interviews I’d recorded; pouring through my ugly handwritten notebooks; and double checking with experts. Thankfully, I had help. A fabulous jellyfish scientist I met along the way read the entire book and gave me corrections on the science side. And I hired an independent fact-checker to double check all my work. I also worked with some super talented copy editors at Riverhead Books who found a few errors that slipped through all of that. But, it’s all done! I’m expecting the galleys (a pre-print hard […]

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Little Jellies and Big News

Last year, I wrote about the world’s biggest animals – and jellies topped the charts. Now, we know jellyfish dominate the opposite end of the animal spectrum too. A jellyfish was just declared the smallest animal in the world. These minute beings were so problematic when they were first discovered living embedded in the tissues of fish, taxonomists of the 1880’s scratched their heads and named them for how mixed up they felt. The myxozoa were strange little parasites, just a few cells in size. Perhaps, like many parasites, they were protozoans like amoebas. Peering closer, scientists noticed something exceptional. One of the few myxozoan cells is cyst that can expel (or fire?) its contents, maybe used to fasten the parasite to the host’s body. The reminded the scientists of something they’d seen before: a jellyfish stinging cell. In the 1930’s, Robert Weil, an expert on jellyfish stinging cells, examined the myxozoan cysts and said they must belong […]

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Jellyfish in Japan

Pregnant

I walked through the grocery store with a secret. I put the individual cups of mac-and-cheese that I found so repulsive, but that my kids clamored for, in my cart. Still, inside I was smiling. I swung my cart past the boxes and boxes of Technicolor cereal, pulled a cartoon-emblazoned brand off the shelf, and nonetheless gloated. I loaded snack-sized metalized polypropelyne bags of air-riddled, cheese-flavored corn puffs on my pile–and my heart soared anyway. Because I knew something no one else around me knew.

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