spiral

So it is summer. A time when many of us spend time at the beach and pick up seashells and marvel at the cool designs of Mother Nature. Well, shells are a true wonders and they have quite a history – both ecologically and as a symbol in civilization. In the wonderful new book, Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells, British marine biologist Helen Scales treats us to a primer on the world of seashells, from their place in nature, our culture and in ways we never really thought about.

About Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales: “Seashells, stretching from the deep past into the present day, are touchstones leading into fascinating realms of the natural world and cutting-edge science. Members of the phylum Mollusca are among the most ancient animals on the planet. Their shells provide homes for other animals, and across the ages, people have used shells not only as trinkets but also as a form of money, and as powerful symbols of sex and death, prestige and war. The science and natural history of shells are woven into a compelling narrative, revealing their cultural importance and the ways they have been used by humans over the millennia. (Seashells have even been tapped as a source of mind-bending drugs.) Marine biologist Helen Scales shows how seashells have been sculpted by the fundamental rules of mathematics and evolution; how they gave us color, gems, food, and new medicines. After surviving multiple mass extinctions millions of years ago, molluscs and their shells still face an onslaught of anthropogenic challenges, including climate change and corrosive oceans. But rather than dwelling on all that is lost, Scales emphasizes that seashells offer an accessible way to reconnect people with nature, helping to bridge the gap between ourselves and the living world. Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells shows why nature matters, and reveals the hidden wonders that you can hold in the palm of your hand.”

I have always loved looking at the variety of shells I find on beaches, from the perfect spirals of some to the odd masses of oysters. On my next visit to the shore (during my upcoming vacation in Wellfleet on Cape Cod) I will have a much more informed understanding of the little wonders I will be holding in my hand.

Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales is available from Amazon and other fine book retailers.