Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone (Hardcover)
November 2017 Indie Next List
“Reading Spineless made me think of Nabokov's butterflies: The subject is distant to the extent that it feels almost extraterrestrial, but the author's passion is contagious. The complexity, the evolution, and the mystery of the organism grows on you, and, suddenly, you're excited about? well, jellyfish! Spineless gives climate change a story, and with it some much needed empathy.”
— Sarah Reif, Kramerbooks, Washington, DC
A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea's imperilled ecosystems. Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralised brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability. In Spineless, Berwald's desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we're inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realise our collective responsibility for the planet we share.