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Monarchs of the Sea

The Extraordinary 500-Million-Year History of Cephalopods

By Danna Staaf

An epic and fun history spanning from the mollusks that invented swimming to the octopuses and other intelligent cephalopods of today

Publisher’s Note: Monarchs of the Sea was previously published in hardcover as Squid Empire.

Before mammals, there were dinosaurs. And before dinosaurs, there were cephalopods—the ancestors of modern squid, octopuses, and more creatures—Earth’s first truly substantial animals. Essentially inventing the act of swimming, cephalopods presided over an undersea empire for millions of years—until fish evolved jaws, and cephalopods had to step up their game or risk being eaten. To keep up, some streamlined their shells and added defensive spines, while others abandoned the shell, opening the gates to a flood of evolutionary innovations: masterful camouflage, fin-supplemented jet propulsion, and intelligence we’ve yet to fully measure. Monarchs of the Sea is an epic, witty history about these bizarre but beautiful creatures that ruled the seas—and still captivate us today.

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Danna Staaf headshot

Danna Staaf

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Review quotes
“Cephs rule! [Monarchs of the Sea], like its protagonists, is nimble, fast, surprising, smart, and weird in the very coolest sense of the word. What could be more fun than jetting back in time to primordial seas with the monsters who really ruled our planet? In these pages, Danna Staaf makes every dino-lover and every undersea adventurer’s dream come true. It’s a fabulous read with squishy, slimy delight on every page.”—Sy Montgomery, New York Times–bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus

“This crystal-clear book will open your world to wider horizons and much deeper times. . . . Long before vertebrates evolved anything like higher intelligence, squids and octopuses were on a separate track to versatility, problem-solving, individual recognition, and deceit. Before we can know who we are, we must know who we are here with, and who has come before us.”—Carl Safina, New York Times–bestselling author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

“I loved this book. . . . Staaf’s approach is short and sweet, well-illustrated and strong on playful narrative.”—Nature

“It is a treat to come across a writer with such specialized training who is able to turn esoteric knowledge into a page-turning read for all audiences. . . . Staaf captures what is rarely seen outside the ivory tower: scientists talking among themselves with a touch of irreverence. Researchers everywhere will surely relate.”—Science

“This engaging book may do for early cephalopods what paleontologists did for dinosaurs in the 1960s: spark a public renaissance of appreciation for these magnificent creatures who once ruled the seas.”—Jennifer Ouellette, author of Me, Myself, and Why and The Calculus Diaries

“Intriguing . . . This in-depth coverage of an often neglected but ecologically vital group will change your view of squid, octopuses, and their relatives.”—New Scientist

“A book like [Monarchs of the Sea] is a reminder that in any scientific narrative, there are always two stories at play. There is the history of the subject you’re studying, and then there is the history of its discovery.”—New Republic

“Fiendishly readable.”—The Inquisitive Biologist

“Fresh and fascinating.”—The Times Literary Supplement
Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
256
Publication date
September 15, 2020
ISBN
9781615197408