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Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality


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Product Details

  • Roughcut: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (August 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240474X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592404742
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"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 won¦t even realize how much you¦re learning. Open the cover, go for a ride, have fun with this book. It¦s 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



Review

"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

"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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Dr Helen Scales is a marine biologist and scuba diver who received her PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has lived in various countries, conducting research on rare coral reef fish and working for several conservation organizations. She is a presenter on BBC radio shows The Naked Scientists and Home Planet, writes regularly for the National Geographic website, and has published scientific studies on the trade in endangered wildlife. She currently resides in Cambridge, England.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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A Fabulous Read about an Amzing Treasure from the Sea!
Deb
I know I will be giving it many more reads in the future for the sheer joy of reading a goodly done piece of work.
D. Blankenship
One of the best things about this book is that it's accessible, a rare trait in scientific writing.
N. Fedrizzi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 21, 2009
Format: Roughcut
Probably you have never seen a seahorse in the wild. Even Dr. Helen Scales, who is a scuba diver and marine biologist, has only seen them a few times. The first one she saw, after many dives of looking, was "like glimpsing a unicorn trotting through my garden." But everyone knows what a seahorse looks like, a fantastic looking creature that sparks curiosity, and it is a hit at aquariums or in oceanic picture books. Scales has satisfied many facets of the curiosity about seahorses in her book _Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality_ (Gotham Books). The reason seahorses don't get seen very often (and part of the reason for their attractiveness) is that they are placid; they do not zip away from predators, but quietly anchor themselves to grass or coral. There are, sadly, only a few black and white pictures in Scales's book, but she includes vivid explanations about the biology and legends of these strange creatures, as well as a broader look at our use of ocean resources.

Seahorses were so puzzling that it took a while for them to be classified as fish. Even in the nineteenth century there was confusion and thoughts that they might be insects or shrimp. But like all fish, they have gills, and they have a swim bladder that controls their buoyancy. Seahorse males are the only male animals that get pregnant and go into labor. During courtship, the female extrudes a short tube that goes into the belly of her mate, and through it she shoots an egg-laden serum. It would make sense that the sperm of the male would be injected into the pouch holding the eggs, but evolution didn't make things so simple. The male still has sperm ejected into the water, as spawning fishes do, and the sperm have to be sucked into the embryo pouch.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on November 8, 2009
Format: Roughcut
Every so often you are fortunate enough to stumble across a book, purely by accident that is an absolute delight; a pleasurable pause in your life from which simply makes living better. This is one of those works. To be honest, I have never given seahorses much thought. Yes, I have seen their little bodies washed up on beaches around the world, seen pictures, gazed in disgust upon their dried remains in various Asian markets and gross little souvenir stands near our own now polluted gulf ...but never actually gave them much thought one way or the other.

Now I love books on nature, travel, history, natural history, archeology, mythology and adventure. Hellen Scales offered each of these subjects up for my pleasure in this wonderful little book, Poseidon's Steed; The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality. Good natural history, or nature writers are getting more and more difficult to come by these days but I must say that I have to add Ms. Scales' name to my list of some of the greats; Teale, Peterson, Bailey, Muir, Dillard, Darwin, Leopold and so many others. I feel I am not exaggerating the point here folks...this lady is good!

In this work the author gives us a wonderful picture of the little, quiet and unobtrusive creature the seahorse. She begins with a very nicely done background sketch of the seahorse in art and literature and proceeds to point out its importance in various archeological discoveries, literally from around the world. This theme is woven into her work throughout the book. Of course she addresses the seahorses and their state in our present world; giving us fact after interesting fact (Did you know that he seahorse is the only known species on our plant where the male actually gives birth? Did you know they can change colors at will?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sam Santhosh VINE VOICE on May 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A beautiful book!

Imagine these wonderful creatures living in the ocean- miniature horses with rolling eyes and tiny monkey's tails. It was the males that had babies - no animals do that anymore - and they changed color as if by magic and danced elegant dances every day with their faithful partners. This is how Helen Scales describes the passion of her life - seahorses; elegantly written, researched in depth, the book provides everything that one would want to know about seahorses. How did such a strange creature evolve? How does their genome look like? Not only is the biology covered in detail, Helen's researches the history starting from the Greeks, how our ancestors perceived them, covering all surviving documentation and paintings. Helen goes to the extent of looking at antiques which depict seahorses, with many interesting side stories such as the stolen seahorse brooch from the Lydian Horde in Turkey.

Where would one find seahorses? What do they eat? Why is there a black market trade in seahorses? How is global warming affecting them? Find all these out in this charming and easy to read book. You wont regret buying this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By N. Fedrizzi on September 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Poseidon's Steed is a fascinating introduction into the world of the seahorse, explaining the historical significance of these iconic creatures, and accurately depicting their uncertain future as a result of human consumption for the traditional medicine trade. Dr. Helen Scales spans the globe, collecting myths and legends of the seahorse from many different cultures and time periods, to explain how these relatively unassuming creatures have remained so culturally and spiritually important to the modern world. An importance which, ironically, threatens the seahorse's very existence. Much of information regarding the seahorse trade found in Poseidon's Steed comes from primary sources, that Scales either collected from experts in the field, or witnessed first-hand during her extensive travels. In addition to accurately describing the plight of the seahorse, Scales optimistically offers suggestions and encouragement for the possible methods of preservation of these emblems of the sea. One of the best things about this book is that it's accessible, a rare trait in scientific writing. Scales' personal enthusiasm for not only seahorses, but the entire marine environment, makes a book packed with scientific information, feel as another reviewer put it, "like a beach read". I would argue, however, that this work should be taken more seriously than that, as it gives a voice to a genus of creatures in real and persistent trouble brought by human hands. In addition to providing a valuable environmental message, Scales pragmatically tackles the larger question of "why seahorses matter" to the global community in the first place. The existence of seahorses "almost certainly doesn't matter for the ecology of the oceans" explains Scales, but ultimately "they matter because they inspire us to care about the natural world". This too, is the message of this excellent book, which is well worth a read.
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