Sunday book review – Sea Mammals by Annalisa Berta

I was in two minds about whether to say yes to the publisher about sending me this book as I’m no expert on marine issues – but obviously I’m interested. The three things that persuaded me were (in no particular order); the cover (looks serious and beautiful), the words ‘past and present’ in the subtitle (ah! this is about long-gone marine mammals too and about change) and the word ‘cornerstone’ in the subtitle (this sounds ecological). Anyone can be seduced, or put off, by a cover (so it’s surprising that some publishers appear to give them little thought), but the subtitle’s wording did not deceive and I enjoyed this book because it takes a long perspective and it is about ecology. And those are the reasons I recommend it to you.

There are five main chapters: Evolution (Walking Whale, Aquatic Sloth, Oyster Bear etc); Discovery (how existing and extinct species were discovered); Biology (lots of fascinating stuff for the non-expert like me); Behaviour (eg lekking manatees, Beluga social groups) and Ecology and Conservation (How we lost the Yangtze River Dolphin, will we lose the Vaquita but also how many marine mammals have been saved by restrictions on exploitation, and whither the Polar Bear?).  Each chapter is a buffet of marine dishes.

There are many highly attractive images throughout the book.

I came away from reading this book with a better understanding of marine events and a deeper feeling that it would be good to know even more.

The cover? Whale in the water – it’s good. I’d give it 7/10.

Sea Mammals: the past and present lives of our oceans’ cornerstone species by Annalisa Berta is published by Princeton University Press.


2 Replies to “Sunday book review – Sea Mammals by Annalisa Berta”

  1. It’s a humpback.

    The vaquita? Something I’ve been watching from afar for quite some years. Things don’t look that rosy. Its a by-catch.

    Sounds like a book I’d be interested in reading. Onto the chrimbo list it goes.

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