Cover image for Eye of the shoal : a fish-watcher's guide to life, the ocean and everything / Helen Scales.
Title:
Eye of the shoal : a fish-watcher's guide to life, the ocean and everything / Helen Scales.
ISBN:
9781472936844

9781472936813
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
320 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Series numbering from dust jacket.
Contents:
Prologue: The wandering ichthyologist. Sedna, the sea goddess -- Ichthyo-curiosities -- A view from the deep : introducing the fish. How the flounder lost its smile -- Outrageous acts of colour. The salmon of knowledge -- Illuminations. O-namazu -- Anatomy of a shoal. Osiris and the elephantfish -- Fish food. Vatnagedda -- Toxic fish. Chipfalamfula -- How fish used to be. The doctor of the sea -- Fish symphonies. The fish and the golden shoe -- (Re)thinking fish -- Epilogue -- Appendix: Illustration species list.
Abstract:
Seventy per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water. This vast aquatic realm is inhabited by a multitude of strange creatures and reigning supreme among them are the fish. There are giants that live for centuries and thumb-sized tiddlers that survive only weeks; they can be pancake-flat or inflatable balloons; they can shout with colors or hide in plain sight, cheat and dance, remember and say sorry; some rarely budge while others travel the globe restlessly. And yet the mesmerizing and complex lives of fish remain largely underrated and unseen, living hidden beneath the waterline, out of sight and out of mind. Helen Scales is our guide on an underwater journey, as we fathom the depths and watch these animals going about the glorious business of being fish. As well as the fish, we meet devoted fishwatchers past and present, from voodoo zombie potion hunters and scientists who taught fish how to walk to nonagenarian explorers of the deep sea. Woven throughout are vignettes of Helen's own aquatic explorations, from eerie nighttime dives with glowing fish and up-close encounters with giant manta rays, to floating in the middle of a swirling shoal being watched by thousands of inquisitive eyes. As well as being a rich and entertaining read, this book will inspire readers to think again about these animals and the seas they inhabit, and to go out and appreciate the wonders of fish, whether through the glass walls of an aquarium or, better still, by gazing into the fishes' wild world and swimming through it.

Seventy per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water and reigning supreme among its creatures are the fish. Their mesmerizing and complex lives remain largely unseen, hidden beneath the waterline, out of sight and out of mind. Scales helps readers fathom the depths and watch these animals going about the glorious business of being fish. She inspires readers to think again about these animals and the seas they inhabit, and to go out and appreciate the wonders of fish.-- adapted from jacket.
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Summary

Summary

There's something about fish that leaves a cold, slimy whiff in many people's minds. Either that, or fish are simply "food"; catching fish to eat is so deeply ingrained that we fish for fish, but we don't pigeon a pigeon or deer a deer. It's difficult to think of fish as wild, living things, partly because those chunks of white meat on our plates are almost impossible to connect to animate, living, breathing creatures.

Wild fish hover in seas, rivers and lakes, out of sight and out of mind. But from the very first time Helen Scales immersed herself into their liquid world, she realized that fish are beautiful, mesmerizing, complex and exciting. The moment she sank down to eyeball a wild trout-the fish poised in front of her, expertly occupying the three-dimensional space in a way that she could only dream of imitating-sparked the ichthyologist within, and set in motion years of study and exploration in the fishes' unseen domain as she became a devoted fish-watcher.

In this book, Scales shares the secrets of fish, unhitching them from their reputation as cold, unknowable beasts and reinventing them as clever, emotional, singing, thoughtful creatures, and challenging readers to rethink these animals. She takes readers on an underwater journey to watch these creatures going about the hidden but glorious business of being a fish. Their way of life is radically different from our own, in part because they inhabit a buoyant, sticky fluid in which light, heat, gases and sound behave in odd ways. They've evolved many tactics to overcome these challenges, to become megastars of the life sun-aquatic. In doing so, these extraordinary animals tell us so much about the oceans and life itself. Our relationship with these scaly creatures goes much deeper than predator versus prey. Fish leave their mark on the human world.

As well as being a rich and entertaining read, this book will inspire readers to think again about these animals, and the seas, and to go out and appreciate the wildness and wonders of fish, whether through the glass walls of an aquarium or, better still, by gazing into the fishes' wild world and swimming through it.


Author Notes

Helen Scales is a marine biologist, diver, surfer, broadcaster and writer who's spent hundreds of hours underwater watching fish. A familiar voice for the oceans, she's pondered the mysteries of the deep sea with Robin Ince and Brian Cox on BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage and donated an imaginary tank of seahorses to The Museum of Curiosity . She's a regular writer for BBC Focus and BBC Wildlife magazines. Among her radio documentaries she's explored the dream of living underwater and followed the trail of endangered snails around the world and back again.

Helen's recent book, Spirals in Time , is a Guardian bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Biology book prize, picked as a book of the year by The Economist , Nature , The Times and the Guardian and was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Popular science books don't get much better than this accessible and eye-opening look at fish by marine biologist Scales (Spirals in Time). She peppers her prose with amusing asides, in keeping with the book's Douglas Adamsesque subtitle, and snapshots of unusual behavior and characteristics (such as the Amazon's Splash Tetra, whose eggs are laid on a leaf overhanging the river, requiring the father to splash them once every minute for two days to keep them moist). But this is much more than just an aquatic safari to peek at oddities; Scales provides the history of relevant zoological classifications, which initially grouped marine mammals along with fish, and the fascinating history of the scientists who studied fish, such as the 17th century English naturalist whose De Historia Piscium took away funding from Isaac Newton's work. The most fascinating sections provide insights into the complex ways fish use color, including communicating with each other using "secret graffiti," and into the dynamics of fish schools. Her vivid descriptions of the animals described-"a Moorish Idol hunches in a small cave, indistinct and grey, like a poorly developed image of itself"-skillfully supplement the illustrations. Fans of David Attenborough's nature documentaries will find this a worthy prose equivalent. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Table of Contents

Prologue: The wandering ichthyologistp. 10
Chapter 1 Ichthyo-curiositiesp. 27
Sedna the sea goddessp. 47
Chapter 2 A view from the deep - introducing the fishp. 49
How the flounder lost its smilep. 83
Chapter 3 Outrageous acts of colourp. 85
The salmon of knowledgep. 117
Chapter 4 Illuminationsp. 119
O-namazup. 141
Chapter 5 Anatomy of a shoalp. 143
Osiris and the elephantfishp. 177
Chapter 6 Fish foodp. 179
Vatnageddap. 201
Chapter 7 Toxic fishp. 203
Chipfalamfulap. 225
Chapter 8 How fish used to bep. 227
The Doctor of the seap. 251
Chapter 9 Fish symphoniesp. 253
The fish and the golden shoep. 275
Chapter 10 (Re)thinking fishp. 277
Epiloguep. 299
Appendix: Illustration species listp. 302
Glossaryp. 304
Select bibliography and Notesp. 306
Acknowledgementsp. 311
Indexp. 313

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