Jellyfish:A Natural History by Lisa-Ann Gershwin

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Jellyfish:A Natural History by Lisa-Ann Gershwin

Jelly Art

HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW OFTEN jellyfish shots do well in underwater photo competitions? Put one of these alien-looking creatures against a black background and what have you got?
A photo you can’t help but look at.
I remember one particular national wildlife-photography contest where I attended the awards ceremony. There had been relatively few underwater entries that year, but it was a UK jellyfish image that won.
More than a few of the topside photographers were muttering darkly to the effect that any fool could get close to a drifting blob of jelly, with plenty of time to get the settings right and squeeze off a shedload of shots.
You could see their point, even if they didn’t necessarily appreciate that taking pictures under water brings more than a few of its own difficulties, but the winner certainly wasn’t bothered about any of that.
Lisa-Ann Gershwin’s new book about jellyfish is a winner too, another great contribution to marine-life literature from Ivy Press, coming hot on the heels of its excellent Seahorses (Review, May).
Like Sara Lourie, the author of that smaller-format book, Gershwin has a very easy style that makes reading what might in other hands be dry and academic a real pleasure.
Every line reveals the depth of her knowledge and especially her infectious enthusiasm. And she has a nice way of putting things – “Ocyropsis looks like a cross between the Batman logo and what could be a Klingon attack vessel” is a typical description, in this case of a clapper jelly.
Jellyfish are not endangered, because they tend to thrive where other creatures fail. Apparently some 4000 species have already been recorded, and Australian marine-biologist Gershwin has discovered 200 of these herself.
She is Director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services so has plenty of “hands-on” experience, if that’s an appropriate term to use in connection with jellies.
It would be worth having this book for the fine selection of photos alone, and for the line illustrations and classy design. It’s interesting to learn more about jellyfish generally but the author goes into greater depth with 50 of the most notable species.
Purple People Eaters, Venus’s Girdles, Gorgons of the Pond, Sailors on the Wind and Bazinga! (one for Big Bang Theory fans) – the section headings have their own poetry.
I would use this book for a solid grounding in the subject and for reference, but with its 150 colour shots you can also enjoy it as an art book.
Steve Weinman

Ivy Press
ISBN: 9781782403227
Hardback, 224pp, £19.99

Appeared in DIVER August 2016


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