University of Chicago Press, October 2014. 456 pages, paperback, colour photographs.
Growing toxicity and rising temperatures coupled with overfishing have led many marine species to the brink of collapse. And yet there is one creature that is thriving in this seasick environment: the beautiful, dangerous, and now incredibly numerous jellyfish. As foremost jellyfish expert Lisa-Ann Gershwin describes in this book, the jellyfish population bloom is highly indicative of the tragic state of the world’s ocean waters, while also revealing the incredible tenacity of these remarkable creatures. Recent documentaries about swarms of jellyfish invading Japanese fishing grounds and headlines about armadas of stinging jellyfish in the Chesapeake are only the beginning – jellyfish are truly taking over the oceans. In general, oceans that are less favourable to fish are more favourable to jellyfish, and these are the very conditions that we are creating worldwide. Despite their role as harbingers of marine destruction, jellyfish are enthralling creatures in their own right, and in this book, Gershwin tells stories of jellyfish while illuminating many facts about their behaviours and environmental adaptations. She takes readers back to the Proterozoic era, when jellyfish were the top predator in the marine ecosystem and she explores the role jellies have as middlemen of destruction, moving swiftly into vulnerable ecosystems. The story of the jellyfish, as Gershwin makes clear, is also the story of the world’s oceans, and this book provides a unique and urgent look at their inseparable histories and future.