The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality
ISBN 9781592405817 | 272 pages | 02 Nov 2010 | Gotham Trade Paperback | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
Summary of Poseidon's Steed Summary of Poseidon's Steed Reviews for Poseidon's Steed An Excerpt from Poseidon's Steed
A fascinating journey with the sea creature that has captured human imagination for thousands of years"Effectively examines the seahorse's chameleon qualities, as well as the phenomenon of males giving birth-the only such instance in the animal kingdom. The author is also adept at delineating the seahorse's alleged healing powers, and she offers a fascinating study in the history of aquariums and the pursuit of 'queer fish' [...] the author makes a solid case for a rare and wondrous creature." - Kirkus
Poseidon’s Steed trails the seahorse through secluded waters across the globe in a kaleidoscopic history that mirrors man’s centuries-old fascination with the animal, sweeping from the reefs of Indonesia, through the back streets of Hong Kong, and back in time to ancient Greece and Rome. Over time, seahorses have surfaced in some unlikely places. We see them immortalized in the decorative arts; in tribal folklore, literature, and ancient myth; and even on the pages of the earliest medical texts, prescribed to treat everything from skin complaints to baldness to flagging libido. Marine biologist Helen Scales eloquently shows that seahorses are indeed fish, though scientists have long puzzled over their exotic anatomy, and their very strange sex lives—male seahorses are the only males in the animal world that experience childbirth!
Our first seahorse imaginings appeared six thousand years ago on cave walls in Australia. The ancient Greeks called the seahorse hippocampus (half-horse, half-fish) and sent it galloping through the oceans of mythology, pulling the sea god Poseidon’s golden chariot. The seahorse has even been the center of a modern-day international art scandal: A two-thousand-year-old winged seahorse brooch was plundered by Turkish tomb raiders and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
A book that is as charming as the seahorse itself, Poseidon’s Steed brings to life an aquatic treasure.
Seahorses lead quiet lives, tucked away out of sight on the seafloor. It is rare to catch a glimpse of a seahorse in its natural habitat. But even if few have seen one live, these exotic, seemingly prehistoric creatures exist quite vividly in our imaginations and they have mesmerized scientists, artists, and storytellers throughout time with their otherworldly rarity.
Poseidon’s Steed is a sweeping journey that takes us from the coral reefs and seagrass meadows of Indonesia where many seahorses makes their natural habitat to the back streets of Hong Kong where a thriving black market seahorse trade is concealed. Throughout history, seahorses have surfaced in some unexpected places and Scales also follows the seahorse back in time, from our most rudimentary seahorse imaginings six thousand years ago on cave walls in Australia, to the myths of ancient Greece.
Scientists have long puzzled over seahorses’ unusual anatomy and their very strange sex lives. And male seahorses are the only males in the animal world that experience childbirth! Seahorses are not what scientists call a “keystone” species. They rely on a healthy ocean to survive, but the marine ecosystem does not rely on them. But their delicate beauty reminds us that we rely on the seas not only to fill our dinner plates, but also to feed our imaginations.
"A true natural history book, covering all aspects of the seahorse's involvement in the world [...] Scales is a marine biologist, and her fascination with the subject (she learned to scuba dive in order to observe this remarkable creature) shines through in her easy-to-read style and the way she uses the seahorse as a hook to discuss broader subjects [...] This is sure to appeal to both teens and readers interested in the natural world." -Library Journal
"This seems to be just about the perfect book: small, delicate, elegant, charming, unusual, fascinating and uniquely memorable, a classic of its kind. In fact, now I come to think of it, Poseidon's Steed is itself a sort of seahorse of the book world." -Simon Winchester
"This gem of a book has all the charm, passion, and compassion that one could look for in a great, relaxing read. Helen Scales is such a delightful writer and traveling guide that you won¹t even realize how much you¹re learning. Open the cover, go for a ride, have fun with this book. It¹s perfect for the beach." --Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean, Eye of the Albatross, and Voyage of the Turtle
"In this eye-opening book, Helen Scales reveals the heretofore well- kept secrets of what is probably the most fascinating and enigmatic of all the fish in the sea, the tiny, horse-headed, vertical swimming, tube-mouthed, prehensile-tailed, male brood-pouched Hippocampus; evolutionary mystery (how could such a creature evolve?), star of mythology, and now, poster-child for marine conservation." -Richard Ellis, author of Tuna: A Love Story
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