Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist

Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist

Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist

Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist


Learning marine biology from a textbook is one thing. But take readers to the bottom of the sea in a submarine to discover living fossils or to coral reefs to observe a day in the life of an octopus, and the sea and its splendors come into focus, in brilliant colors and with immediacy.

In Sensuous Seas, Eugene Kaplan offers readers an irresistibly irreverent voyage to the world of sea creatures, with a look at their habitats, their beauty and, yes, even their sex lives. A marine biologist who has built fish farms in Africa and established a marine laboratory in Jamaica, Kaplan takes us to oceans across the world to experience the lives of their inhabitants, from the horribly grotesque to the exquisitely beautiful. In chapters with titles such as "Fiddler on the Root" (reproductive rituals of fiddler crabs) and "Size Does Count" (why barnacles have the largest penis, comparatively, in the animal kingdom), Kaplan ventures inside coral reefs to study mating parrotfish; dives 740 feet in a submarine to find living fossils; explains what results from swallowing a piece of living octopus tentacle; and describes a shark attack on a friend.

The book is a sensuous blend of sparkling prose and 150 beautiful illustrations that clarify the science. Each chapter opens with an exciting personal anecdote that leads into the scientific exploration of a distinct inhabitant of the sea world--allowing the reader to experience firsthand the incredible complexity of sea life.

A one-of-a-kind memoir that unfolds in remarkable reaches of ocean few of us can ever visit for ourselves, Sensuous Seas brings the underwater world back to living room and classroom alike. Readers will be surprised at how much marine biology they have learned while being amused.


Who is the most famous George of all time? Not George Washington, he of the wooden dentures; not George Steinbrenner, of flinty disposition. No, not either of these esteemed gentlemen. the most famous is the unfortunate George of Seinfeld fame. George’s glory was that he was the greatest loser of all time. Millions sat glued to their TVs, anxious to help George out of his latest disaster.

One episode begins with Kramer hitting golf balls into the sea. Later George is seen standing on the beach. “What will be the denouement of this oddly innocuous juxtaposition of activities?” we asked ourselves. There, on the horizon, appears the inevitable, inaccessible beautiful lady. She approaches, they talk. Groping for the most heroic identity he can come up with, George tells her, “I am a marine biologist.” As he says this, a crowd gathers—there is a huge whale stranded just offshore!

The young lady says to George, “You are a marine biologist—do something.” George’s bluff is called. He looks stricken, then determined. He rolls up his pants and wades out into the water. the damsel looks on with fear in her eyes—then joy. George returns from the sea, holding his hand up in triumph. He has saved the whale. in his hand is Kramer’s golf ball. It had been lodged in the blowhole of the whale, suffocating it.*

George’s adventure notwithstanding, there is no such thing as a “marine biologist.” One can be a marine invertebrate zoologist (worms, clams, and crabs), a marine ichthyologist (fishes), or even a marine phycologist (algae, seaweed). Within these specialties one can study the ecology, behavior, physiology, taxonomy, and so on of one’s chosen group of organisms. The

* Many reviewers have corrected my distorted version of this story. It seems to me that everyone has memorized this episode. Because, in this rare instance, I am permitted poetic license, there will be no attempt to reach perfection. I prefer my dimly remembered synopsis. It makes more sense to me.

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