Spying on whales : the past, present, and future of Earth's most awesome creatures / Nick Pyenson.

Main Author: Pyenson, Nick.
Published: New York : Viking, c2018.
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Review by Choice Review

Reading Spying on Whales is reminiscent of perusing a single section of books in the library. Haphazardly and leisurely selecting texts from that section reveals a common topic tying all the books together. One's excursions into specific material in each text would be relatively brief, and the experience elicits curiosity rather than a cohesive thesis. Pyeson's book takes readers on an engaging journey, interspersing tales of his fieldwork, brief discussions on topics in evolution and ecology, and vignettes on whale biology. Within each chapter, these threads are woven together elegantly. As a whole, the book offers a non-linear series of reflections on whale natural history. Readers will develop notions about what it is like to be a field biologist, how scientists think, and how much we still do not know about whales. A few hand-drawn illustrations season the conversational narrative, which requires no special knowledge. The selected bibliography contains mostly nontechnical sources; the notes section contains pithier citations. Anyone interested in whales will likely enjoy spending a weekend spying on whales with this paleontologist from the Smithsonian Institution. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers. --Stephen Robert Fegley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* What is it about whales that we find so fascinating? They are the largest animals that have ever lived on the planet, and humans have wondered about them for all of recorded history. Pyenson, an award-winning paleontologist and curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, takes a unique look at these enigmatic marine mammals. He starts his tour with what we know about whales in their evolutionary past. The narrative of his exciting research follows three broad sections, answering questions about where whales came from, how they live, and what will happen to them in the current age of humans. Combining his research on fossil whales (and making inferences about their lifestyles from studying their bones) with field work aboard whaling ships in demanding climes, during which he teases out a hitherto unknown sensory apparatus revealed as the whales were flensed, or skinned, Pyenson paints a history of how whales became the magnificent creatures they are today. Illustrated with beautiful line drawings, and heavily annotated, this is a hard-to-put-down quest to understand whales and their place on Earth.--Bent, Nancy Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Smithsonian paleontologist Pyenson winningly combines science and travel writing to create what he describes as "a kind of travelogue to chasing whales, both living and extinct." Writing in a contagiously enthusiastic style, Pyenson brings the reader along on an exploration of the evolution of whales, from their prehistoric origins as land-roaming organisms to the at-risk aquatic species of today. He travels to, among other spots around the globe, an ancient whale graveyard on the coast of Chile to investigate fossilized skeletons and an Icelandic whaling station to better understand whale anatomy. Whether describing the technological advances that allow lasers to create 3-D replicas of whale skeletons, or old-fashioned fossil hunting with his son, Pyenson communicates a love of natural history and scientific discovery. Not shying away from charged topics, such as climate change and the human impact on dwindling whale populations, he covers these issues in an evenhanded fashion that avoids polemic. At one point, Pyenson writes, "The best stories of scientific discovery are, at their heart, stories about people." Using this philosophy, he has delivered a fascinating and entertaining look at whales and the scientists who study them. Agent: Bridget Matzie, Aevitas. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Review by Library Journal Review

With a title that borrows from a quote by writer Annie Dillard, this latest work from paleontologist Pyenson (Smithsonian: Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals) explores the rich discoveries and remaining questions about whales. From the coast of Panama to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Pyenson brings together the work of ecologists, geologists, and physicists. He examines evidence for the evolution of species from land mammals to the sea creatures we are familiar with today. The author studies migration patterns and pod behavior and anatomy to help advance current understandings of whale adaptation and socialization. He also looks to the future in order to predict how climate change, pollution, and human activity will impact how whales live, breed, and die. -VERDICT Popular science readers (both adult and teens) will enjoy the way in which Pyenson sheds light on the mystery of life below the seas without dimming its majesty.-Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Pyenson, the Smithsonian's curator of fossil marine mammals, offers a captivating, accessible glimpse of the complicated, fascinating world of whales, moving from Deep Time (50 million years ago) to the present and the future. What is a whale? To answer that question, the author says, it's crucial to understand these creatures' long evolution as they moved from the sea to land and back to the sea, what they are today, and how they may change in the future as they interact with humans and a changing biome. This is no dry recitation; Pyenson treats facts the way he does life-as an adventure. Details such as blue whales having more than 300 million miles of blood vessels are woven into tales of his own and historical, exciting, sometimes dangerous expeditions in search of whales and whale fossils. VERDICT A fast, fun, and informative read that is ideal for research and pleasure alike.-Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.