Spirals in Time

Spirals in Time

The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells

Book - 2015
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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. But watch out. Some molluscs can kill you if you eat them. Some will kill you if you stand too close. That hasn't stopped people using shells in many ways over thousands of years. They became the first jewelry and oldest currencies; they've been used as potent symbols of sex and death, prestige and war, not to mention a nutritious (and tasty) source of food. Spirals in Time is an exuberant aquatic romp, revealing amazing tales of these undersea marvels. Helen Scales leads us on a journey into their realm, as she goes in search of everything from snails that 'fly' underwater on tiny wings to octopuses accused of stealing shells and giant mussels with golden beards that were supposedly the source of Jason's golden fleece, and learns how shells have been exchanged for human lives, tapped for mind-bending drugs and inspired advances in medical technology. Weaving through these stories are the remarkable animals that build them, creatures with fascinating tales to tell, a myriad of spiralling shells following just a few simple rules of mathematics and evolution. Shells are also bellwethers of our impact on the natural world. Some species have been overfished, others poisoned by polluted seas; perhaps most worryingly of all, molluscs are expected to fall victim to ocean acidification, a side-effect of climate change that may soon cause shells to simply melt away. But rather than dwelling on what we risk losing, Spirals in Time urges you to ponder how seashells can reconnect us with nature, and heal the rift between ourselves and the living world.
Publisher: London : Bloomsbury Sigma, 2015.
Branch Call Number: 594 SCA
Characteristics: 304 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill. ;,23 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. [293]-296) and index.


From Library Staff

Shells have always had an ability to captivate us - their myriad forms, colours and patterns, along with the food source they represented. Drawing the eye and our attention, they have found their way into mythology and symbolism. Adapted as one of the earliest forms of currency, have been used as... Read More »

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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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