Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells

Author(s): Helen Scales


Seashells are the sculpted homes of a remarkable group of animals: the molluscs. These are some of the most ancient and successful animals on the planet, and they have fascinating tales to tell. Spirals in Time charts the course of shells through history, from the first jewelry and the oldest currencies through to their use as potent symbols of sex and death, prestige and war, not to mention a nutritious (and tasty) source of food. In this book, Helen Scales leads us on a journey into the realm of these undersea marvels. She goes in search of everything from snails that 'fly' underwater to octopuses accused of stealing shells and giant mussels with golden beards. Shells are also bellwethers of our impact on the natural world. The effects of overfishing and pollution are, of course, serious concerns, but perhaps more worrying is ocean acidification, which causes shells to simply melt away. Spirals in Time urges you to ponder how seashells can reconnect us with nature, and heal the rift between ourselves and the living world.


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The beautifully written story of shells and their makers, and our relationships with them

A rewarding glimpse of another world, filled with strange and reclusive creatures ... There is rich detail in all directions. One does not know what will come next. Often the descriptions made me see shafts of sunlight underwater, irradiating extraordinary places and creatures. That is just what the book does itself. - Richard Kerridge, The Guardian -- Richard Kerridge The Guardian ... punctures assumptions with the power of a cone snail dart. -- Rose George The Spectator Splendid ... Scales clearly loves snails - she has done an elegant, excellent job of explaining her passion ... she is a most able modern champion of molluscs. -- Adrian Barnett New Scientist Scales is a charming raconteur with boundless enthusiasm and an eye for detail that make her subject glow with life. Combining biology, history and ecology, this is nature writing at its most engaging. Sunday Express The stories in Spirals in Time - which range from slaves being bought for bags of shells in west Africa in the 1770s to ground-breaking medical uses of cone-snail venom - are gripping and unimaginable. The Telegraph Helen Scales ... takes us on a fascinating journey into the strange and captivating world of mollusks. Carefully researched and entertaining throughout ... Scales's book is relentlessly interesting. Science ...an informed introduction to this fascinating group. The author's enthusiasm shines through the prose...This is an ideal book for a summer holiday, and beach finds will take on a new dimension because of it. Times Literary Supplement

Helen Scales is a marine biologist based in Cambridge. Her doctorate involved exploring the reproductive biology of the humphead wrasse, and since then she has tagged sharks in California, catalogued marine life surrounding a hundred islands in the Andaman Sea, and most recently studied the diverse fish that live on coral reefs in the South Pacific. Helen is now a freelance researcher and broadcaster. A major outlet for Helen's explorations is BBC Radio where she is a reporter and presenter on science and natural history programmes, especially on Radio 4 and the World Service. Her credits include regular appearances on Inside Science and Home Planet, numerous one-off documentaries, and a coveted spot on The Museum of Curiosity. Helen is also a long-standing member of the award-winning science communication collective, The Naked Scientists, based at the University of Cambridge. Helen's first book was Poseidon's Steed; The Story of Seahorses from Myth to Reality, (2010, Penguin).

1. Meet the shell-makers 2. How to build a shell 3. Sex, death and gems 4. Shell food 5. A mollusc called home 6. Spinning shell stories 7. Flight of the argonauts 8. Treasure hunting 9. Bright ideas 10. The sea butterfly effect

General Fields

  • : 9781472911384
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : 0.265
  • : February 2016
  • : March 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Helen Scales
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 304
  • : Black and white throughout, plus 8pp colour section