A New Scientist Best Book of the Year
Beautiful photographs of stunning shells from London's Natural History Museum, home to one of the most significant and comprehensive collections in the world.
Collected and treasured for their beauty, used in religious rituals, or even traded as currency, shells have fascinated humans for millennia. Ancient and enchanting, dazzling in form and variety, these beautiful objects come from mollusks, one of the most diverse groups in the animal kingdom, including snails, oysters, cuttlefish, and chitons. Soft-bodied, these creatures rely on shells for protection from enemies and their environments, from snowy mountains to arid deserts, in deep-sea hydrothermal vents and the jungles of the tropics, on rocky shores, and in coral reefs.
In this book, mollusk expert Andreia Salvador profiles some of the world's most beautiful and quirky shells, each selected from the more than eight million specimens held in the collection at London's Natural History Museum. We lock eyes with the hundred-eyed cowry, named after "the all-seeing one," the giant Argus Panoptes of Greek mythology. We see how shells' appearances translate into defense strategies, as with the zigzag nerite, which varies its patterning to deceive and confuse predators. And we meet shell inhabitants, such as the amber snail, which eats earthworms by sucking them up like spaghetti. Reproduced in full color and striking detail, these shells have much to reveal about the history of collecting, the science of taxonomy, and the human desire to understand the natural world.