Spirals in Time

Spirals in Time

The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells

Book - 2015
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A biological and cultural biography of the ubiquitous yet mystical seashell.

Seashells, stretching from the deep past into the present day, are touchstones leading into fascinating realms of the natural world and cutting-edge science. In Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells , marine biologist Helen Scales shows how seashells have been sculpted by the fundamental rules of mathematics and evolution; how they gave us color, gems, food, and new medicines.

Members of the phylum Mollusca are among the most ancient animals on the planet. Their shells provide homes for other animals, and across the ages, people have used shells not only as trinkets but also as a form of money, and as powerful symbols of sex and death, prestige and war.

The science and natural history of shells are woven into a compelling narrative, revealing their cultural importance and the ways they have been used by humans over the millennia, even as a source of mind-bending drugs. After surviving multiple mass extinctions millions of years ago, mollusks and their shells still face an onslaught of anthropocentric challenges, including climate change and corrosive oceans. But rather than dwelling on all that is lost, Scales emphasizes that seashells offeran accessible way to reconnect people with nature, helping to bridge the gap between ourselves and the living world. Spirals in Time shows why nature matters, and reveals the hidden wonders that you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Publisher: London Bloomsbury Sigma, 2015
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781472911360
Branch Call Number: 594.1477 SCALES
Characteristics: 304 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some colour) ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Gregory, Aaron John - Illustrator


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Apr 21, 2018

I picked this up at random from the library shelf (or not entirely randomly -- I used to collect shells when I was a kid) and enjoyed it immensely. A fascinating, well-written compendium of trivia and tales (both natural and cultural) about mollusks and their beautiful shells. "She writes about seashells by the seashore"...

Jan 16, 2018

The best book on natural history that I've read in many years. Scholarly without being at all pedantic. Completely engrossing, it introduced me to an astonishing world of undersea life, connecting those fascinating artifacts that many of us have picked up along the shore with such diverse themes as paleontology, ancient trade routes, marine ecology and even the 17th century slave trade. Most fascinating of all for me was the lifestyle, reproduction strategies and adaptations of the vast array of creatures generally classed as molluscs and the beautiful, iconic shells that they leave behind.

LPL_EliH Aug 29, 2017

The perfect book for those with mollusks on the mind-- the writing is accessible, yet thoroughly scientific, and Scales balances biological lessons with insight into humanity and its history. I wasn't expecting a chapter on the connection between sea shells and colonial slavery, for instance, but this surprising link is just one of the well-argued reasons that these shells really matter to who we are and how the world functions.

Jul 27, 2016

Boring. I found little emphasis on ecology and environment, instead the author focuses mostly on the pretty colours and shapes.

Oct 03, 2015



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