MORE LIFE IN THE DARK THAN YOU THINK
Edgar Allan Poe had been a nature photographer, he might have written
a story with the following title: "Life in the Dark: Illuminating
Biodiversity in the Shadowy Haunts of Planet Earth" (Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2015).
by Danté Fenolio is one of the most intriguing presentations
I have seen of the underworld life that few of us know about and even
fewer ever see. And Fenolio introduces us to creatures like viperfish
and fangtooths that would surely have delighted Poe.
the book, one is struck first by the awesome photography, which leads
to two immediate questions: how does this weird animal make a living,
and how did anyone ever photograph it? The answer to the second is a
combination of persistence and dedication to art and to science in exploring
and photographing around the world, plus taking advantage of modern
of the deep-sea creatures, Fenolio was actually onboard trawling ships
in the Gulf of Mexico and various oceans for weeks at a time.
net brought animals to the surface, he was there day and night with
his photographic equipment.
of photos is of the development stages from embryo to adult of a deep-sea
angler fish called Murray's abyssal sea devil.
is apt considering the fish was named after Sir John Murray, the father
of modern oceanography, lives at ocean depths below 6,000 feet and has
the nightmarish look of a monster one might expect to see at such depths
if it were not pitch black.
is of an open-mouthed sea devil with plenty of teeth as it chases an
orange fluorescent, and presumably terrified, shrimp.
is not horror and dread in the dark, and the abysses of the ocean are
not the only place the author has explored. Shallower seas, underwater
caves and beneath the soil all are areas of darkness in which animals
must adapt or disappear.
shows a colleague wading waist-deep in water, with the roof of a cave
just above his head. Some of the photographs are stunning without being
scary, such as several pages of glow-in-the-dark small fishes, including
blue-striped dottybacks, purple firefishes and giant flashlight fishes
that live in tropical seas at moderate depths.
is captivating, and the author's ecological explanations of how bioluminescent
organisms work are equally intriguing. Not surprisingly, much of the
biology of this underwater world remains unknown to science. The book
makes readers wish we knew more.
we are all aware that many strange fish live far beneath the sea, the
author also discusses fascinating invertebrates on deep ocean floors.
of him holding a Japanese spider crab, the largest crab in the world
with a span of up to 12 feet between outstretched claws, is impressive.
more so in one sense is the giant isopod, the world's largest sowbug,
which reaches a length of more than 30 inches. Imagine if the isopods
in our backyards, the roly-polys, reached that size!
photography will capture anyone's attention. The writing is also excellent,
with a conservation thread that runs throughout the book. People cannot
care for something if they do not even know it exists, and with this
book everyone will know of many more life-forms than they did before.
end Fenolio says, "My closing message is a request, plea really,
that we not only marvel at life's wonder, but also do our part to preserve
it ... for generations to come."
easily envision the dramatic photographs and biological discussions
of some of this hidden biodiversity appealing to Poe's macabre imagination.
But most of the book is an overview of benign beings that add to the
world's amazing biodiversity, which we can only truly appreciate by
knowing they are there and seeing images of them.
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