Information

Is the deep ocean fish look ugly because due to darkness there is no visual sexual selection?

Is the deep ocean fish look ugly because due to darkness there is no visual sexual selection?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Is the deep ocean fish look ugly because due to darkness there is no visual sexual selection? If so, is there a common notion of beauty between humans and animals?


I suspect the deep ocean fish look ugly to you because they are unfamiliar. The iconic fish species with which humans have coexisted forever are all surface fish, with common adaptations for surface living in the light. When one thinks of a fish the salmon or cod is what we think of.

The deep fish have different selection pressures. They do not need to be streamlined or svelte. A deep fish might think a surface fish is ugly because it cannot make its own light - how plain and dull. How can the surface worlders find a good mate if everyone is dark?


Ocean trench

Ocean trenches are long, narrow depressions on the seafloor. These chasms are the deepest parts of the ocean&mdashand some of the deepest natural spots on Earth.

Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Physical Geography

11 Images, 1 Video, 2 Links

Links

Instructional

Map by Jesse Allen, made with data from the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center

Deep Disposal
The Challenger Deep is the deepest part of the ocean. It sits on a subduction zone, where the Pacific plate is subducting beneath the Philippine plate.

Some scientists argue that this makes the Challenger Deep the perfect place to dispose of toxic nuclear waste. The material would be far from human habitation and would melt into the Earth's molten mantle at the subduction zone. An international agreement (the London Convention) currently makes this proposed method of nuclear waste disposal illegal.

to build up or grow together.

mass of sediments scraped off from oceanic crust during subduction and piled up at the edge of the overriding plate. Also called an accretionary prism.

volcano that has had a recorded eruption since the last glacial period, about 10,000 years ago.

a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.

region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.

not identical on both sides.

(singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

type of dark volcanic rock.

a dip or depression in the surface of the land or ocean floor.

vehicle used to explore the deep ocean. Developed after the bathysphere.

light emitted by living things through chemical reactions in their bodies.

structure composing the skeleton of vertebrate animals.

to bend, fold, or fall apart quickly.

deep, narrow valley with steep sides.

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

a deep opening in the earth's surface.

process by which some microbes turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates using energy obtained from inorganic chemical reactions.

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

marine environment where hydrogen sulfide and methane seep up from beneath the seafloor and mix with the ocean water.

substance having at least two chemical elements held together with chemical bonds.

to press together in a smaller space.

thick layer of Earth that sits beneath continents.

area where two or more tectonic plates bump into each other. Also called a collision zone.

steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

tube or long, circular object.

to put out of shape or distort.

fragile or easily damaged.

to research or investigate thoroughly.

having parts or molecules that are packed closely together.

indentation or dip in the landscape.

to go from a higher to a lower place.

non-living organic material, often decomposing.

lacking or not having something.

the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

to get rid of or throw out.

the art and science of building, maintaining, moving, and demolishing structures.

tools and materials to perform a task or function.

long, thin, fleshy growth from the head of an anglerfish.

to develop new characteristics based on adaptation and natural selection.

waste material discharged from the body.

journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

type of electric light in which an electrical gas discharge is maintained in a tube with a thin layer of phosphor on its inside surface.

all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.

material that provides power or energy.

state of matter with no fixed shape that will fill any container uniformly. Gas molecules are in constant, random motion.

resembling or behaving like a jelly, gel, or gelatin.

person who studies the physical formations of the Earth.

mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

deepest zone of the open ocean, starting at around 6,000 meters (20,000 feet).

land that rises above its surroundings and has a rounded summit, usually less than 300 meters (1,000 feet).

confrontational or unfriendly.

opening on the seafloor that emits hot, mineral-rich solutions.

rock formed by the cooling of magma or lava.

a type of electric light in which light is produced by a filament heated by electric current.

landward or continental side of an ocean trench.

(light emitting diode) device (semiconductor) that emits light when an electric current passes through it.

outer, solid portion of the Earth. Also called the geosphere.

organ in an animal that is necessary for breathing.

object used to attract an animal or other organism.

middle layer of the Earth, made of mostly solid rock.

having to do with the ocean.

continuous fall of organic and inorganic particles (including the remains of marine organisms, fecal matter, shells, and sand) from the upper layers of the water column to the seafloor.

one of a breeding pair of animals.

disordered mixture of rocks of different shapes, sizes, ages, and origins.

rock that has transformed its chemical qualities from igneous or sedimentary.

chemical compound that is the basic ingredient of natural gas.

movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

solid material turned to liquid by heat.

series or chain of mountains that are close together.

place where a river empties its water. Usually rivers enter another body of water at their mouths.

to plan and direct the course of a journey.

substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

thin layer of the Earth that sits beneath ocean basins.

person who studies the ocean.

a long, deep depression in the ocean floor.

a long, deep depression in the ocean floor.

fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.

group of tissues that perform a specialized task.

composed of living or once-living material.

oceanic side of an ocean trench.

hill on the seafloor near an ocean ridge, where the oceanic lithosphere begins to subduct beneath the overriding plate.

equal distance apart, and never meeting.

piece of land jutting into a body of water.

process by which plants turn water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into water, oxygen, and simple sugars.

animal that hunts other animals for food.

force pressed on an object by another object or condition, such as gravity.

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

organism on the food chain that can produce its own energy and nutrients. Also called an autotroph.

horseshoe-shaped string of volcanoes and earthquake sites around edges of the Pacific Ocean.

large stream of flowing fresh water.

natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.

surface layer of the bottom of the ocean.

base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

marine algae. Seaweed can be composed of brown, green, or red algae, as well as "blue-green algae," which is actually bacteria.

solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

rock formed from fragments of other rocks or the remains of plants or animals.

region of land stretching across Russia from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

to eject or discharge violently.

surprising or astonishing.

extreme incline or decline.

process of one tectonic plate melting, sliding, or falling beneath another.

small submarine used for research and exploration.

The upper zone of the ocean. This zone goes down to about 200 meters (660 feet). Also called the photic, euphotic, or epipelagic zone.

material consisting of tiny hollow "microballoons" made from material such as glass or carbon.

movement of tectonic plates resulting in geologic activity such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

massive slab of solid rock made up of Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle). Also called lithospheric plate.

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

to develop and be successful.

very thin, translucent paper often used for wrapping delicate items.

to move material from one place to another.

lacking the physical presence of a person.

up-down direction, or at a right angle to Earth and the horizon.

the ability to see or be seen with the unaided eye. Also called visual range.

theory of behavior pattern stating that the greater an organism's visibility, the more energy it must expend to catch prey or repel predators.

chain of volcanoes formed at a subduction zone.

area reaching from the sediment of a body of water to its surface.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Editor

Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Last Updated

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources

Plate Tectonics

The Earth&rsquos surface may seem motionless most of the time, but it&rsquos actually always moving, ever so slowly, at a scale that is difficult for humans to perceive. The Earth&rsquos crust is broken up into a series of massive sections called plates. These tectonic plates rest upon the convecting mantle, which causes them to move. The movements of these plates can account for noticeable geologic events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and more subtle yet sublime events, like the building of mountains. Teach your students about plate tectonics using these classroom resources.

Puerto Rico Trench

Map. The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Protecting the Mariana Trench

Students read about the establishment of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument and discuss why it is important to preserve the Mariana Trench and surrounding area.

Deep Knowledge

Marine microbiologist Dr. Douglas Bartlett and marine geologist Dr. Patricia Fryer share information obtained from the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition.

Related Resources

Plate Tectonics

The Earth&rsquos surface may seem motionless most of the time, but it&rsquos actually always moving, ever so slowly, at a scale that is difficult for humans to perceive. The Earth&rsquos crust is broken up into a series of massive sections called plates. These tectonic plates rest upon the convecting mantle, which causes them to move. The movements of these plates can account for noticeable geologic events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and more subtle yet sublime events, like the building of mountains. Teach your students about plate tectonics using these classroom resources.

Puerto Rico Trench

Map. The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Protecting the Mariana Trench

Students read about the establishment of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument and discuss why it is important to preserve the Mariana Trench and surrounding area.

Deep Knowledge

Marine microbiologist Dr. Douglas Bartlett and marine geologist Dr. Patricia Fryer share information obtained from the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition.


ROB ZOMBIE

As a rock icon and filmmaker with a unique vision, Rob Zombie has continuously challenged audiences as he stretches the boundaries of both music and film. He has sold more than fifteen million albums worldwide, and is the only artist to experience unprecedented success in both music and film as the writer/director of eight feature films with a worldwide gross totaling more than $150 million.

Rob Zombie achieved great success in the music industry, first as a member of the multi-platinum band White Zombie and later as a solo artist with even greater results collecting numerous multi-platinum and gold albums along the way including Hellbilly Deluxe, The Sinister Urge and Educated Horses. In 2013, the seven-time GRAMMY® nominee released his fifth solo album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, on his Zodiac Swan label through UMe. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and spawned two Top 10 Active Rock singles, “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Super Town” and Zombie’s spin on Grand Funk Railroad’s anthemic “We’re An American Band.”

Rob Zombie’s first concert film, The Zombie Horror Picture Show, was released May 19 2015 by Zodiac Swan/UMe. The feature-length film held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Music DVD chart for two consecutive weeks. Recorded live over two sizzling nights in Texas, The Zombie Horror Picture Show captures Zombie’s elaborate, multi-media production of mind-blowing SFX, animatronic robots, pyrotechnics, oversized LED screens and state-of-the-art light show combined with his powerhouse band featuring John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish.
In April 2016, Zombie released his 6th studio album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. The album debut at number six on the Billboard Top 200 making it the sixth consecutive release to debut Top Ten. Produced by Zeuss, it was recorded and mixed at Goathouse Studios. A full return to form by the rock icon, The Electric Warlock… features John 5 (Guitar), Piggy D (Bass) and Ginger Fish (Drums).
October 2020 saw the release of the first new Zombie track and video in over four years — King Freak: A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition off of the latest full-length album entitled The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. A classic Zombie album through and through with high-energy rages like The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man and Get Loose to heavy-groove thumpers like Shadow Of The Cemetery Man and Shake Your Ass-Smoke Your Grass. This new slab of Zombie madness released in March 2021.


The Sea

John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for this novel, and what a well-deserved honour and tribute for this masterfully written, poignant and deeply moving story.

I read somewhere that John Banville is considered “a writer’s writer”. I can definitely see that. On the other hand, he is also “a reader’s writer” because I am a reader, and thousands of other readers have also enjoyed Mr. Banville’s writing.

This is Max Morden’s story and he narrates throughout. Seamlessly, we follow him along John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for this novel, and what a well-deserved honour and tribute for this masterfully written, poignant and deeply moving story.

I read somewhere that John Banville is considered “a writer’s writer”. I can definitely see that. On the other hand, he is also “a reader’s writer” because I am a reader, and thousands of other readers have also enjoyed Mr. Banville’s writing.

This is Max Morden’s story and he narrates throughout. Seamlessly, we follow him along as he talks about boyhood summers somewhere on the South coast of Ireland. He refers to a nearby town as Ballymore and the summer spot as a nearby village, . . . let’s call it Ballyless. In the present, he is in mourning and having a difficult time dealing with his grief. He drinks too much, ignores his work, and is intent on seeking some answers, or something he can hang onto, from his past summers when he was young.

We meet the Grace family: Carlo, Connie, their children Chloe and Myles, and their minder or perhaps governess, Rose. This family is perceived by Max as his social superiors but he is drawn to them for many reasons – partly curiosity, partly out of loneliness, and somewhat out of boredom. The Graces fascinate him, especially noticeable while he relates his experiences with them as a boy. However, with all the time that has passed between then and now, their once large summer home has become a boarding house, and he seeks it out to stay in and perhaps looks to his past to help him heal.

As Max relates his story, moving back and forth between then and now, it is clear that his past influenced his future, and that his ‘now’ is also very much influencing how he views his past. He argues with himself, chastising himself at times for not being clear about a point. Sometimes he will make the point again – the same point using different words. Sometimes he corrects his course in the narrative with an addition that makes it clearer. Sometimes he says he is digressing too far or embellishing, so scratch that, and this is how it was. Of course, once it is stated, it’s not easy (nor is it prudent) to forget it and buy in completely to the new perspective.

This is not a long book, although it definitely is not one to attempt to rush through. The author sets the pace, takes control of this story, and doesn’t let it go for a moment. I was a very willing passenger on this journey with Max and there were times that something he said startled my own past memories into my reading experience. Countless times I had to set the book down and indulge in my own personal reveries. In most respects they weren’t connected to the story except by a small filament of invisible thread, yet once the thread was pulled into my sight, I had no choice but to follow it.

Oh! And the words. I wanted to mention the words – some of them I had to jot down because I might need them some day: for a game (like when you have a whole slew of vowels – etiolate could be most helpful), or maybe just because certain words add clarity to what might be a more watery picture without them. This novel is a masterpiece of words used exactly as they should be precisely when they need to be.

I had several quotes highlighted that I especially savoured, and then I changed my mind about adding them to my review. Please, please read this exceptional novel and discover them for yourself. Of one thing I am certain: each person will come away with their own reveries, their own captured words, and the phrases and sentences that moved them the most.

I recommend this to everyone who has ever danced with words and/or read a wonderful story composed of them, and a reminder that this is a slow waltz . . . one that you will always remember.
. more

Ah, the sea - especially the smell of the sea, a phrase as familiar as the idea that aromas have a visceral power to exhume memories we didn’t know we had ever had and lost.

Smells of all sorts permeate the pages of this book and waft up, creating a synaesthetic connection to people and places in Max’s life. My second-hand paper book added a medley of vague aromas of its own. Not something to read on Kindle (though for me, nothing is).

This is an intensely sensual book, but not in the u

Ah, the sea - especially the smell of the sea, a phrase as familiar as the idea that aromas have a visceral power to exhume memories we didn’t know we had ever had and lost.

Smells of all sorts permeate the pages of this book and waft up, creating a synaesthetic connection to people and places in Max’s life. My second-hand paper book added a medley of vague aromas of its own. Not something to read on Kindle (though for me, nothing is).

This is an intensely sensual book, but not in the usual sense. It’s about the power of one of the senses, smell, in the context of bereaved reminiscence. Max frequently mentions the smell of things. Not all are pleasant, but they colour his memories in a profound way.

Smell and taste are interdependent. Unlike the other senses, it’s almost impossible to describe them except in comparison with other smells and tastes - hence wines with undertones of apricot, accents of peat, and aftertaste of daisies. I think it’s also why it's so difficult to remember, let alone imagine smells at will. One's mind's eye and ear are so much more biddable. Even touch is easier to recall and describe. Banville prompted me to to try, though.

Sit or lie somewhere comfortable, quiet, and dark. Touch is easy: start by noticing what you can actually feel: the curve of the chair, the fabric and seams of your clothes, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Then remember or imagine touches: the shrill blast of a strong salt sea breeze on your face, stroking the soft silky fur of a cat, the abrasion of warm, wet, sand between your toes.

Now add sights and sounds: the view of the ocean and howl of the wind, the purring of the inscrutable black cat, the colour of the sand and the hiss of the waves coming down on it. You can see and hear and feel it all.

But smell and taste? Much harder. Think of a favourite food (siu mai). You can see it, you can feel its texture, and hear the sound as you bite into it. But can you describe, let alone experience its taste and smell?

Maybe it’s precisely because smells don’t readily convert to similes and metaphors that they are such powerful triggers?

Narrators: Banville = Morden = Cleave?

We sought to escape from an intolerable present in the only tense possible, the past.

Max Morden is barely distinguishable from Alex Cleave in the Eclipse, Shroud, Ancient Light trilogy (Ancient Light reviewed HERE), who is apparently rather similar to Banville. Max and Alex narrate in exactly the same rambling, occasionally introspective, self-centred, curmudgeonly, largely guilt-free, and invariably misogynistic voice. The writing is sweet and sour. And beautiful.

Fluency disguises an underlying inarticulacy in the face of recent and ancient tragedies, where “the cruel complacency of ordinary things” is epitomised by “tight-lipped awkwardness” of furniture, and for the people involved, “From this day forward, all would be dissembling. There would be no other way to live with death.” Even the land is inarticulate: “Marsh and mud flats where everything seemed turned away from the land, looking desperately towards the horizon as if in mute search for a sign of rescue.” And web-toed Myles is literally mute: “Being alone with Myles was like being in a room which someone had just violently left. His muteness was a pervasive and cloying emanation.”

Both narrators are forever questioning their own motives and pointing out the inconsistencies of their memories: “It has all begun to run together, past and possible future and impossible present”. As an art historian, Max is familiar with touching up portraits: “Memories are always eager to match themselves seamlessly to the things and places of a revisited past”

Alex, and especially Max, are trying to write. They both have a problematic daughter, referred to by two names beginning with C. Both had, or fantasised about, a youthful relationship with a mother figure, the similarly named Mrs Grace and Mrs Gray. And in this case, the inadvertent temptress even offers him an apple.

Most importantly, both have past and present tragedies, and revisit the former to understand and cope with the latter.

The ending is rushed (too many events and revelations) and I do not like Max or Alex - to the extent I almost wonder why I like these books: “With women, wait long enough and one will have one’s way” and his reveries are “in the unvarying form of pursuit and capture and violent overmastering”! Nevertheless, Banville’s skill is such that I have some sympathy for them, and I want to know their stories.

* “My daughter… usually has no smell at all” unlike her mother, “whose feral reek, for me the stewy fragrance of life itself, and which the strongest perfume could not quite suppress, was the thing that first drew me to her.”

* “In her last months, she smelt, at her best, of pharmacopoeia.”

* “The cool thick secret smell of milk made me think of Mrs Grace.”

* “A mingled smell of spilt beer and stale cigarette smoke.”

* “As I was heaving myself over in a tangle of sheets… I caught a whiff of my own warm cheesy smell.”

* “She smelled of sweat and cold cream and, faintly, of cooking fat.”

* “A whiff of her sweat-dampened civet scent.”

* “Little animals we were, sniffing at each other. I liked in particular… the cheesy tang in the crevices of her elbows and knees… In general she gave off… a flattish, fawnish odour, like that which comes out of, which used to come out of, empty biscuit tins in shop.”

* Recently bereaved, new places are “like a wedding suit smelling of moth-balls and no longer fitting.”

* “Peppermints… the faint sickly smell of which pervades the house”.

* “The squat black gas stove sullen in its corner and smelling of the previous lodger’s fried dinners.”

* “The smell in the hall was like the smell of my breath when I breathed and rebreathed it into my cupped hands.”

* “Smells of exhaust smoke, the sea, the garden’s autumn rot.”

* Railway “giving off its mephtic whiff of ash and gas.”

* In a tree, “at this height the breeze… smelling of inland things, earth, and smoke, and animals”.

* An abandoned beach hut, “smelling of old urine”.

* On the point of death, “her breath gave off a mild, dry stink, as of withered flowers”.

* "The waves clawed at the suave sand along the waterline, scrabbling to hold their ground but steadily failing."

* “Lead-blue and malignantly agleam.”

* "A white seabird, dazzling against the wall of cloud, flew up on sickle wings and turned with a soundless snap and plunged itself, a shutting chevron, into the sea's unruly back."

* “The seabirds rose and dived like torn scraps of rag.”

* “By the sea, there is a special quality to the silence at night… It is like the silence that I knew in the sickrooms of my childhood… It is a place like the place where I feel that I am now, miles from anywhere, and anyone.”

* “Hearing the monotonously repeated ragged collapse of waves down on the beach.”

Quotes - Memories, Aging, Past, Future

* “The past beats inside me like a second heart.”

* “I have been elbowed aside by a parody of myself.”

* “These days I must take the world in small and carefully measured doses, it is a sort of homeopathic cure… Perhaps I am learning to live amongst the living again… But no, that’s not it. Being here is just a way of not being anywhere.”

* “The image that I hold of her in my head is fraying, bits of pigment, flakes of gold leaf, are chipping off.”

* “Happiness was different in childhood… a matter of simple accumulation, of taking things… and applying them like so many polished tiles to what would someday be the marvellously finished pavilion of the self.”

* "To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth, and cower there, hidden from the sky's indifferent gaze and the harsh air's damagings."

* “Rust has reduced its struts to a tremulous filigree.” A gate.

* The wink of a new neighbour, “jaunty, intimate and faintly satanic”.

* “The smile she reserved for him [husband], sceptical, tolerant, languidly amused.”

* “The chalet that we rented was a slightly less than life-sized wooden model of a house.”

* Father returns “in a wordless fury, bearing the fruits of his day like so much luggage clutched in his clenched fists.”

* “Their unhappiness was one of the constants of my earliest years, a high, unceasing buzz just beyond hearing… I loved them, probably. Only they were in my way, obscuring my view of the future. In time I would be able to see right through them, my transparent parents.”

* “Even from inside the car we could hear the palms on the lawn in from dreamily clacking their dry fronds.”

* “Despite the glacial air a muted hint of past carousings lingered.”

* “Beyond the smouldering sunlight there is the placid gloom of indoors.”

* “Perhaps all life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it.”

* “Light of summer thick as honey fell from the tall windows and glowed on the figured carpets.”

* “That fretful, dry, papery rustle that harbinges autumn.”

* “The Godhead for me was a menace, and I responded with fear and its inevitable concomitant, guilt.” But that’s as a child.

* “Devout as holy drinkers, dipped our faces towards each other… I tasted her urgent breath.”

* “It was as if the evening, in all the drench and drip of its fallacious pathos, had temporarily taken over from me the burden of grieving.”

* “The open doorway from which a fat slab of sunlight lay fallen at our feet. Now and then a breeze from outside would wander in absent-mindedly.”

* "For even at such a tender age I knew there is always a lover and a loved, and knew which one, in this case, I would be.”

* “A series of more or less enraptured humiliations. She accepted me as a supplicant at her shrine with disconcerting complacency… Her willful vagueness tormented and infuriated me.”

* “Is this not the secret aim of all of us, to be no longer flesh but transformed utterly into the gossamer of unsuffering spirit?”

* “A chintz-covered sofa sprawls as if aghast, its two arms flung wide and cushions sagging… Piano, its lid shut, stands against the back wall as if in tight-lipped resentment of its gaudy rival opposite.”

* “The canned audience doing our laughing for us.”

* “The polished pewter light of the emptied afternoon.”
“The copper-coloured light of the late-autumn evening.”

* “Puddles on the road that now were paler than the sky, as if the last of day were dying in them.”

* “Drowning is the gentlest death.”

See Also The Sea, The Sea

I was strongly reminded of this Banville book (and also his Ancient Light) when I read Iris Murdoch's one from 30 years earlier: the title, setting, the narrator's character and introspection. See my review HERE. Banville is more lyrical, slightly less philosophical, and Morden less unpleasant.

Image source of nose sculpture on a beach at Colmslie Beach Reserve in Brisbane:
http://www.weekendnotes.com/im/002/05.

Originally recommended by Dolors, in relation to The Sense of an Ending. Her review of this is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/. . more

The Depths of Vocabulary

John Banville loves words just as they are. Words like losel, and finical, gleet, scurf, bosky, cinerial, and merd that will really screw up your spell-checker. It&aposs part of his masterful charm. Add his ability to put these words together in velvet sentences, and combine sentences into exquisite narrative, and voila: a writer worth his salt. as it were, especially with a title like The Sea. Inspired by Henry James? Very possibly, particularly by The Turn of the Screw and The Depths of Vocabulary

John Banville loves words just as they are. Words like losel, and finical, gleet, scurf, bosky, cinerial, and merd that will really screw up your spell-checker. It's part of his masterful charm. Add his ability to put these words together in velvet sentences, and combine sentences into exquisite narrative, and voila: a writer worth his salt. as it were, especially with a title like The Sea. Inspired by Henry James? Very possibly, particularly by The Turn of the Screw and its permanent mystery. Nonetheless, uniquely and unmistakeably Banville. . more

Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard, 1941-46

What has this luminous painting of a female bather to do with a book called "The Sea", you might ask? More than you might think. Pierre Bonnard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, often painted his wife Marthe. He painted this particular piece when she was in her 70s, and she had died by the time he completed it. We can see by virtue of the recognisable images of female form and bathtub, the general gist of the painting. But the image goes Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard, 1941-46

What has this luminous painting of a female bather to do with a book called "The Sea", you might ask? More than you might think. Pierre Bonnard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, often painted his wife Marthe. He painted this particular piece when she was in her 70s, and she had died by the time he completed it. We can see by virtue of the recognisable images of female form and bathtub, the general gist of the painting. But the image goes beyond the bounds of reality with the misshapen bathtub that accommodates impossibly long and bent limbs, the colours shimmering and waving on the organically undulating walls as though they might just disappear at any moment, a dog on what might be a mat or a square of light on the slanted floor, brushstroke after gorgeous brushstroke coming together to simulate Marthe's moment of private repose. The moment is almost certainly of a younger Marthe, though. It is the artist's memories of an earlier, more youthful moment.

"There is a formula, which fits painting perfectly," wrote Bonnard, "many little lies to create a great truth."

Not only is the narrator of this novella, Max Morden, attempting to write a book about Bonnard, not only did Max's own wife during her painful decline enjoy the silent comfort of baths, but like Bonnard, he is trying to cobble together an image, one of his wife and his life, looking back as an aging widower. These memories and images are as elusive, as distorted, as tricky as the painting. But when brought together, they capture the luminosity, pain and newness of a pivotal summer in his youth.

Max is a flawed and not particularly likeable character, and he's often looking through the bottom of a bottle, which adds to the hazy unreliability of his point of view. His aching melancholy is always felt, an aging man who can only look back and piece together as best he can, a story that is at once innocent and vaguely sinister. This exploration of memory, grief and loss washes over you with many waves, dragging you under to the murky depths.

Reading John Banville is like gazing at a painting. His poetic style is incredibly evocative and visual. He brings his readers to the scene, right up close to his subjects. We can smell their breath, we can see the little imperfections. At the same time, we are not entirely sure how this person got there, were they wearing a blue dress or a floral one? He meanders between past and present, revealing just enough, a trail of literary breadcrumbs. Each brushstroke works with the next to complete the story. This 2005 Booker Prize winner is gorgeous, a masterpiece, delineating the difference between literature and just plain fiction. . more

"And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination."Livro do desassossego, Fernando Pessoa

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it” proclaims Max Morten, narrator and main character of The Sea, after his wife Anna passes away victim of a long and enduring illness.
Drowning in the grief which comes with the vast and ruthless sea of loss, he decides to seclude himself in the little coastal village where he spent his summers as a boy. A flood of unavoidab "And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination."Livro do desassossego, Fernando Pessoa

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it” proclaims Max Morten, narrator and main character of The Sea, after his wife Anna passes away victim of a long and enduring illness.
Drowning in the grief which comes with the vast and ruthless sea of loss, he decides to seclude himself in the little coastal village where he spent his summers as a boy. A flood of unavoidable memories charged with haunted emotion and digressive meditations recreate that dreamy atmosphere that only childhood can nurture. New found memories which serve to wash away his conflicting emotions between the impotence of witnessing life quietly fading away and the cruel complacency of ordinary things allowing death to happen indifferently.

But as Max invades his frozen memories he awakens ghosts long gone though never forgotten and the unsettling and seductive Grace twins, his childhood friends, will become sharply delineated on the wall of his memory, prompting unintended recollections about the strangeness and dislocation of one’s own existence and the immortal burden of being the survivor.
”You are not even allowed to hate me a little, any more, like you used to” says Anna to Max with a sad, knowing smile. Isn't it true that we can’t help hating the ones we love the most? We are human beings after all. And the guilt and the anger and the violence which come after our beloved have been irrevocably usurped from us, leaving us alone with all that self-disgust, with no one to save us from ourselves, hating them, the gone, even more.

Banville threads a complex pattern between the gratuitous dramas of memory, past traumas and an intolerable present which engages in eternal conflict with the enduring intensity of the natural world which, with all its ruthless beauty and nonchalance, mocks at our human insignificance. And it is precisely when we are devastated by this insurmountable, catastrophic truth that Banville's crafted poetry starts delivering rhythmic tides of controlled pleasure, dropping pearls of beauty, easing the sting of the meaningless words, holding us together, creating a new pregnant life full of wonder and possibilities.
I’m aware Banville's style might not appeal to every reader, he doesn't rush, he digresses languidly, teasing and eroding your perceptions relentlessly, his mortally serious ways can seem overdone, but I responded to his uncompromising tone, so graceful and precise. Poetry in prose.

Memories may say nothing but they are never silent, pulling and pushing, futilely turned the wrong way, urging us to be drowned and get lost in them, never to return. But somehow these little vessels of sadness, these sinking boats we all are, sailing in muffled silence in this hollow sea of impotence and disregard, manage to catch the smooth rolling swells coming from the deeps only to be lifted and carried away towards the shore as if nothing had happened. And as our feet touch the ground we realize that our lives have been, in spite of everything, in spite of ourselves, acts of pure love and only for that, they are worth living.

(…) and it was as if I were walking into the sea. . more


The story is narrated by Max, a retired art critic, who is mourning the death of his wife, Anna, and now living at The Cedars, which he remembers from his youth. Whether recalling those days when he lived with his family in more modest surroundings and gawked eagerly into the house and its inhabitants, the Graces.

John Banville impresses with his beautiful, splendid and brittle writing. His protagonist Max is governed by his whims, which twists and weakens before its sorrowfulness, his mourning, the sutures of old dislikes, and the trace of his fossilized tears.


Thus, Anna tried to liberate Max of his guilt. Yes, we are allowed to hate those we love and if we can hate is solely because we loved. That’s how human beings can form relationships, by being truthful to themselves. However, Max was not ready to give up on his guilt that still hangs on together with his memories of Anna.

Still drowning in his grief, from his hard and recent loss, we read and feel for its inevitability, like the tide that stops for nothing, and Max unavoidable memories hurt and haunt him. His memories only escalate his sentiment of gloom and remorse. I have to confess that this was one of the scattered moments where I read more than the beauty of Banville well-chosen words his suffering with the loss of his wife touched me deeply.

When my wife died suddenly in 1998 from a cerebral aneurysm, one of the things that I did in the wake of her death was to begin to reconnect with people and places that had meaning both for us as a couple and for me alone. In many cases, I ended up returning to places from my own childhood and reconnecting with people whom I had not contacted for years. Both the process itself and the actual reconnections to past places and friends helped me cope with the loss. It also activated memories that I When my wife died suddenly in 1998 from a cerebral aneurysm, one of the things that I did in the wake of her death was to begin to reconnect with people and places that had meaning both for us as a couple and for me alone. In many cases, I ended up returning to places from my own childhood and reconnecting with people whom I had not contacted for years. Both the process itself and the actual reconnections to past places and friends helped me cope with the loss. It also activated memories that I had either forgotten or had feared I would be unable to recall.

John Bayville’s The Sea is a story that mirrors in some measure my own journey in grief. For Max Morden, the journey to his past was certainly more focused. Following his wife’s death after a long illness, he returned to the seaside town where his family had vacationed in his youth. And his reawakening memories swirled around a family, the Graces, he had met during a single summer when he was around 11 years old. For Max, mystery and tragedy were deeply embedded in his youthful past.

While there are clear differences in Max’s and my returns to our pasts, Max’s emotional responses to working through grief were similar. At one point, toward the end of the novel, Max reflects:

There are times, they occur with increasing frequency nowadays, when I seem to know nothing, when everything I did know seems to have fallen out of my mind like a shower of rain, and I am gripped for a moment in paralyzed dismay, waiting for it all to come back but with no certainty that it will.

I more generally read fiction to open up new horizons for me, new worlds—to help me see and understand with the eyes of others the world around me. The Sea, however, was a far more personal adventure: in a sense, it was a return to old worlds along already trodden roads. I understood much of Max’s inner turmoil and disengagement from the people around him because it all rang true for me in my circumstances.

Apart the story thread, Banville’s language is elegant and often lyrical. Here Max describes a moment when he and the Graces are at the beach:

The sand around me with the sun strong on it gave off its mysterious, catty smell. Out on the bay a white sail shivered and flipped to leeward and for a second the world tilted. Someone away down the beach was calling to someone else. Children. Bathers. A wire-haired ginger dog. The sail turned to windward again and I heard distinctly from across the water the ruffle and snap of the canvas. Then the breeze dropped and for a moment all went still.

Banville fills his novel with the kinds of descriptions that pull the reader directly into the story, seeing, hearing and smelling with the protagonist.

Banville, as Ted Gioia emphasizes in his review of The Sea, also builds his story with words that will send most readers to a dictionary: assegais, horrent, cinereal, knobkerrie, prelapsarian and mephitic (Gioia's selection). It is that use of an elegantly mature vocabulary that seems to off put many readers. He is clearly in his selection of words not an Ernest Hemingway. But he is a different type of stylist than Hemingway. While Hemingway in his classic novels and short stories uses a sparse, tightly-constructed prose that hints at greater depth and meaning (his so-called “iceberg theory”), Banville brings everything to the surface, leaving the reader submerged in a world of profound emotion and surprise tightly controlled by the author. Reading The Sea is not effortless.
. more

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a Booker Prize winner. The language in this short novel is very, very rich, evocative and annoyingly, sent me to the dictionary far too many times for comfort. Banville is just showing off, descending into literary affectation perhaps. Two time-lines interweave as Max, a retired art critic, now living at The Cedars, a grand house of note from his youth, recalls those days when he lived with his family in much more modest surroundings and peered longingly into this place. Of course, it wa This is a Booker Prize winner. The language in this short novel is very, very rich, evocative and annoyingly, sent me to the dictionary far too many times for comfort. Banville is just showing off, descending into literary affectation perhaps. Two time-lines interweave as Max, a retired art critic, now living at The Cedars, a grand house of note from his youth, recalls those days when he lived with his family in much more modest surroundings and peered longingly into this place. Of course, it was not wealth per se that drew his 11 year old interest, but the presence of The Graces, not a religious fascination, but a family. A pan-like, goatish father, Carlo, an earth mother, Constance, white-haired (and thus summoning Children of the Damned notions) twins, a strange mute boy, Myles, who is sometimes comedic and sometimes sinister, a maybe-sociopathic girl, Chloe, and another girl, Rose, who appeared to be a mere friend, but was their governess. That this is left unclear for much of the book seems odd. Young Max enjoys the social step up he gets by hanging out with the twins, and is quite willing to go along with their cruelties to subservient locals, but is most taken with Constance Grace, pining for her in an awakening sexual way, until, of course, his heart, or some bodily part, is stolen by Chloe. There is a scent here of Gatsby-ish longing, and Max is indeed a social climber.

Death figures very prominently in The Sea. “They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide,” is how it opens, and goes on very briefly to summon an image of a rising sea intent on devouring all. I will spare you the final death scene, but Max does indeed cope with death, the passing of his wife, Anna, contemplation of his own ultimate demise and how death, as personified by the sea, not only affected his life, but seems always with us.

This is I suppose a novel of coming and going of age. Banville is quite fond of deitific references, finding a different god or goddess for each of his characters. And his art-critic narrator sprinkles the narration with references to paintings. Sadly for me, I am completely unfamiliar with the works noted, so may have missed key references. Max is not a nice person. He engages in cruel behavior as a child and appears to lack a strong core of humanity, confessing that he doesn’t really know his daughter very well, and not seeming to care much.

I was almost satisfied with the ending, which recalls the most significant event of his youth, but I felt that it left unsatisfactorily unexplained the reasons for its occurrence. I was also frustrated by the slowness of the book. Although it is a short novel, it seemed to take a long time to get going. And the central characters do not call out for any of us to relate to them. All that said, while I might not award it a Booker, I would recommend it. The language is sublime (tote a dictionary while you read. You will need it.) and the payoff is good enough to justify the slow pace.

PS - for a very different and fascinating take on the novel be sure to check out Cecily's review . more

The narrator of The Sea is an odious man. I wasn’t sure I ever understood why Banville made him so odious. As a child he hits his dog for pleasure he pulls the legs off insects and burns them in oil. As an adult, he’s a crude misogynist without knowing he’s a misogynist, a narcissist and a masochistic misanthrope. He makes constant allusions to his acquired humility and wisdom but he comes across throughout the book as largely ignorant and arrogant. There’s no apotheosis. Because Max is present The narrator of The Sea is an odious man. I wasn’t sure I ever understood why Banville made him so odious. As a child he hits his dog for pleasure he pulls the legs off insects and burns them in oil. As an adult, he’s a crude misogynist without knowing he’s a misogynist, a narcissist and a masochistic misanthrope. He makes constant allusions to his acquired humility and wisdom but he comes across throughout the book as largely ignorant and arrogant. There’s no apotheosis. Because Max is presented as a mediocrity with artistic pretensions I was often perplexed how seriously Banville wanted us to take the rarefied outpourings of his sensibility. I certainly found it difficult to reconcile the essential crudeness of Max’s nature with his Proustian sensibility. There was a disconnect between the narrator’s ugly soul and his susceptibility to the beauty of the natural world. At times it seemed like the ambition of this novel was to write as many pretty sentences as possible rather than a novel. You could save yourself time by simply reading all the favourite quotes here rather than the entire novel without missing very much. The writing is relentlessly elegant but often it’s elegant where elegance is inappropriate. It’s vacuously elegant. His aphorisms can appear vacuous too - “The past, I mean the real past, matters less than we pretend.” You could turn that sentence on its head –“The past matters more than we pretend” and it’s no less true. Despite its constant yearning for profundity I didn’t have one eureka moment when he enabled me to see something familiar in a new revelatory light. Like I said I was never sure if he was sending up his character by making a lot of his lofty musings deliberately vacuous, of no consequence whatsoever.

There’s little tension in this novel, no compulsion. It all hinges on what’s essentially a moment of melodrama which didn’t ring true for me. Neither did it explain anything. There are good things, like the descriptions of his childhood crush on his friend’s mother and his dying wife and his response, though once again Banville can’t resist his misanthropic form of dark humour which consistently puts his character in the worst possible light – ironic as he’s always waxing lyrical in the book about the transfiguring nature of light.

The Sea might be described as a grumpy meditation on growing old. I much preferred The Untouchables which had a plot, a sense of purpose Banville could embroider with his elegant prose. . more

The Sea really bugged me. I&aposve never read another John Banville novel, so I don&apost know whether this one is typical of his writing in general, but nothing irritates me more these days than a writer who has considerable gifts at his command who writes novels that function as elegant window displays for the considerable gifts at his command. The plot of the book, such as it is, finds middle-aged Max Morden retiring to a rented house by the sea, near the "chalets" where he spent his boyhood summers, The Sea really bugged me. I've never read another John Banville novel, so I don't know whether this one is typical of his writing in general, but nothing irritates me more these days than a writer who has considerable gifts at his command who writes novels that function as elegant window displays for the considerable gifts at his command. The plot of the book, such as it is, finds middle-aged Max Morden retiring to a rented house by the sea, near the "chalets" where he spent his boyhood summers, to mourn his wife's death and think about the past. The first person account intercuts Max's memories of his wife's final months with his memories of a "significant" summer he spent by the sea, during which he became fascinated with the Graces, a family a rung or two higher on the social ladder than Max himself. I put "significant" in quotation marks, because I can't for the life of me figure out what's significant about Max's relationship with the Graces, other than the opportunity it affords Banville to display his considerable gifts, and -- what's worse -- I can't even fathom what's significant about his wife's death other than the opportunity it affords Banville . . . well, you get the idea. The premise of the novel seems to be "Hey, look at me, everybody, I'm the 'heir to Nabokov.' The back of the book says so. And besides, my book is filled with Beautiful Prose." The linking of Banville's name with Nabokov on the back of the book does Banville a considerable disservice. I kept expecting withering satire and a devastating prose style (Banville is good, but he's not that good), and all I got was the narrator's tendency to pepper his recollections with big, bloated words.

"Character-driven" novels are not of themselves a bad thing. Perhaps my favorite novel of the last thirty years (Gilead) relies more on character than on plot. If you're going to rely on character, however, you'd better make sure your characters are at least one, and preferably all, of the following: a) sympathetic b) compelling c) more than merely a place marker for inflated, if not particularly profound, ruminations on the Big Questions.

One of Banville's passages may illustrate what bothers me most about this book. In the passage, Morden describes the photographs his terminally ill amateur-photographer wife has taken of fellow hospital patients -- all of whom have, apparently cheerfully, consented to expose their scars, wounds, and afflictions for the sake of . . . photographic immortality? . . . the gratification of their exhibitionist desires? . . . the betterment of mankind? I got stuck, as I read this passage, trying to figure out why the people in the photographs had agreed to present their private suffering in so public a fashion. Then I realized they were props, placed on stage to be rearranged and remarked upon, to give the leading man something to do while he wows us with his method acting. Oh, come on, one might object, isn't Yorick's skull a prop? Of course, but it's not merely a prop. We admire Hamlet's ability to make him live again, but that's just it. He makes him live again. Nobody really lives in Banville's novel, including his narrator, and perhaps that's not surprising in a novel that is mostly about death. What's more surprising, though, is that, for all his lovely style, Banville leaves us with very little impression that anyone in this book ever really has lived.

In the book's final passages, Max Morden likens the moment of his wife's death to a moment in his childhood when he had been lifted up by a suddenly surging sea, carried toward shore a bit, and then set down again. It was, he says, "as if nothing had happened. And indeed nothing had happened, a momentous nothing, just another of the great world's shrugs of indifference." That's what it feels like to read . more

I wish to thank my wonderful friend Seemita, who is truly an amazing reviewer, for inspiring me to read this book.

"The silence about me was heavy as the sea."

Silence. It is a special kind of language. The language of the dead, of those long gone, of the forgotten, the misunderstood, the hurt, the mad and, sometimes, the content. What do they tell me? What does silence tell me? What does it tell Max Morden? It tells him a story. The story of his life. It embraces him, caresses him, whispers to hi I wish to thank my wonderful friend Seemita, who is truly an amazing reviewer, for inspiring me to read this book.

"The silence about me was heavy as the sea."

Silence. It is a special kind of language. The language of the dead, of those long gone, of the forgotten, the misunderstood, the hurt, the mad and, sometimes, the content. What do they tell me? What does silence tell me? What does it tell Max Morden? It tells him a story. The story of his life. It embraces him, caresses him, whispers to him of everyone and everything lost. He holds on to it. It is his only companion, his only friend, the lover that will never tire of him. It is his secret path to a better world. The world of the past.

“To be concealed, protected, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to be hidden from the sky’s indifferent gaze and the harsh air’s damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, shaking off the cold present and the colder future”

Yet, he discovers that silence has been his companion his whole life. He knows and understands it like he has never known and understood anybody, including himself.

“I have come to realise how little I knew her. I know so little of myself, how should I think to know another?”

Has he walked into it for so long as to not be able to understand the world around him? Has he truly wanted to? It is often easier to let go of the truth, dispose of it like of unnecessary, heavy and unattractive object and create another version of it, "new reality"

“Which is the more real, the woman reclining on the grassy bank of my recollections, or the strew of dust and dried marrow that is all the earth any longer retains of her?”

Which is more real? The past or the present? And when we cannot find refuge in the past, the present is painful, the future unattainable, unimaginable, where is the sanctuary? Is it within us? What does lay within us besides ourselves? Those whom we refuse to let go of? Max believes that no one is truly gone as long as they are remembered. “And yet people do go, do vanish. That is the greatest mystery of all” Duality. Ambiguity. Isn’t it part of us all, of everything that surrounds us? We die, yet, we go on living. Time passes, nobody can escape change. “At what moment, of all our moments, is life not utterly, utterly changed, until the final, most momentous change of all?” Yet, time is still. Our memory always brings us back to what we thought we’ve left behind. “The past beats inside me like a second heart”. And the more we walk within the realms of our own minds, the more we realize that we are like the sea. Ambivalent. We are cruel and merciful, placid and tempestuous, generous and harsh, known and mysterious. But unlike it, we are boundless.

"The waves before me at the water’s edge speak with animate voice, whispering eagerly of some ancient catastrophe, the sack of Troy, perhaps, or the sinking of Atlantis…I see the black ship in the distance, looming imperceptibly nearer at every instant. I am there. I hear your siren’s song. I am there, almost there."

Our minds, our pasts, are territories we explore, yet, there is so much that is left unexplored. What do they eagerly whisper to us? What song do they sing to us? What is revealed, what is left concealed? Are we ready to take that chance? Are we ready to immerse into the depths of the dark and mysterious past, are we ready to face the cold and painful present, do we dare hope for the obscure future? Who are we, what stories do we have to tell, and to whom do we tell them? Sometimes silence is the only one that listens. Sometimes that’s enough. And sometimes it is not. ”There is a special quality to the silence at night”

P.S. The whole time while reading the book and then, while writing my review, I was listening to The Cure's "Lullaby". I think it fits perfectly . more

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

Max Morden had met once gods. They came in the guise of Grace family. Father, noisy lecherous satyr. Mother, oozing sensuality indolent goddess, will become his first erotic fascination. And twins. Chloe, very mature for her age, feisty girl with rather strong personality and Myles, shy and impish boy. There was Rose yet, nanny or governess, a sad nymph holding a secret in her heart. They rented at the seaside a summer house, called The Cedars.

And no
The past beats inside me like a second heart.

Max Morden had met once gods. They came in the guise of Grace family. Father, noisy lecherous satyr. Mother, oozing sensuality indolent goddess, will become his first erotic fascination. And twins. Chloe, very mature for her age, feisty girl with rather strong personality and Myles, shy and impish boy. There was Rose yet, nanny or governess, a sad nymph holding a secret in her heart. They rented at the seaside a summer house, called The Cedars.

And now, half a century later, widowed and lonely Max is in that place again. He’s a man who never had a personality, not in the way that others have, or think they have. I was always a distinct no-one whose fiercest wish was to be an indistinct someone as he disarmingly admits. He takes a room in the Cedars but memory plays tricks on him. Everything has changed though seems to be the same and invariant. It’s naivety to expect even prospect of return, isn’t it ?

Only the sea appears to be unchangeable.

What is he looking for here ? Alleviation, calm, death, answer, missing piece of the puzzle ?

This memorable summer, painted with golden sun and inky shadow, creates the first plan of the novel. Just then Max had gained this sad knowledge that there is always a lover and a loved and which role he would be playing in that act.

There is another plan as well also given in flashbacks. It concerns Morden’s marriage, illness and finally death of his wife. These two plans are mixing alternately with his present stay at the seaside. Such is the nature of memory that one recollection leads to another gradually unveiling more and more from our past and showing intimate image of our life. The sea then, with its tides, is a record of that process, coming to terms with loss, dismantling of memory, family, love, past .

Banville’s prose, perfectly fitting in with the gray and cold ubiquity of the sea, is elegiac and poetic. And concluding paragraph is profoundly purifying.

I do not remember well that day when the gods departed. But I know where I can find them now. They remain incessantly like insects caught in a drop of resin, like the blades of grass trapped in the amber. They possessed for good this mythical land, that distant Arcadia of my childhood. And I believe that still have the key to that land. . more

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
- John Banville, The Sea

Over the years, I&aposve collected about 3 or 4 Banville books (just bought a slog more). The first was given to me by a girl I liked in HS, but never got around to reading it or dating her. I was finally inspired (or moved?) to read &aposthe Sea&apos (and a couple other Ireland-themed novels) because I was going to spend a week with the wife in Ireland and there is nothing better to read about on vacation than sex*, death, loss and san “The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
- John Banville, The Sea

Over the years, I've collected about 3 or 4 Banville books (just bought a slog more). The first was given to me by a girl I liked in HS, but never got around to reading it or dating her. I was finally inspired (or moved?) to read 'the Sea' (and a couple other Ireland-themed novels) because I was going to spend a week with the wife in Ireland and there is nothing better to read about on vacation than sex*, death, loss and sand. It was beautiful. It was poetry. It was nearly perfect.

It is easy to borrow images and allusions from other critics. It is a snap to fit the Banville piece in the puzzle among his Irish peers (piers?). It is a picnic to park Banville's summer blanket next to Beckett or Joyce (yes, fine, they all dropped from their mother's wombs onto the same emerald island). It is easy to play the literary cousin game and compare Banville to Proust or Nabokov or Henry James. These things are all true. They are also all fictions and obvious short cuts.

I haven't read enough of Banville to say he measures up to Proust or Nabokov, but damn this book was fine. There really must be something in the water because I'm reading Enright's The Gathering right now and my first thought was 'da feck'? Two Man Bookers by Irish novelists about drowning, death and memory. I'm sure there is more than water and whiskey to this island.

Anyway, I loved and adored 'The Sea'. I used those slick little page-markers everytime I came across a line of Banville's that seemed especially quoteable. I gave up when I ran out of markers. The edge of the book looked like a colorful Stegosaurus with markers dancing up and down the pages.

* On a side note. It is VERY rare that a writer can actually write about sex without making me want to run from the room. They either make it too clinical (like a doctor popping zits) or too silly (like the cover of a romance novel) or too ethereal (like clouds copulating). Joyce could do it. Nabokov could do it. And I'm proud to say Banville can do it too. . more


Detecting Preys

The physiology and sensory processing capabilities of cephalopods are adapted to all marine environments. Animals looking for diverse prey needed to meet energetic requirements metabolic energetic needs that change dramatically according to the ontogenetic state, the habitat they live in and life cycle stage. A variety of feeding behaviors have been recorded in association with diverse feeding strategies (for review see Hanlon and Messenger, 1996 but see also Rodhouse and Nigmatullin, 1996), and such richness is accompanied by a sophisticated set of sensory systems (review in: Budelmann, 1994 Wells, 1994 Budelmann et al., 1997 Table 1). This developed sensory system allows them to achieve sophisticated behaviors to detect food, avoid predators and communicate between congeners in a way comparable to vertebrates. Photo-, mechano-, and chemoreceptors provide support for the collection of information about their potential prey.

Table 1. Biological and behavioral adaptations utilized by cephalopods for the sake of their predatory behavior.

Probably one of the most striking features of cephalopods is their developed eye, superficially resembling that of teleost fish. It has a single nearly spherical lens with a graded refractive index, the ability to accommodate the len and a similar capacity for eye movement, showing an example of convergent evolution (Packard, 1972). The use of an adjustable pupil to control the amount of light entering the eye distinguishes the cephalopods' eye from their fish counterpart and the light-evoked pupillary constriction in cephalopods is among the fastest in the animal kingdom (Douglas et al., 2005). Among the few exceptions is the deep-sea cirrate octopod Cirrothauma murrayi, whose eye lacks lenses and the optic lobes are simply organized (Aldred et al., 1983), however, it is probably able to detect bioluminescence (Warrant and Locket, 2004). Most cephalopods studied have a single type of rhodopsin as a visual pigment, suggesting they are blind to color (Messenger et al., 1973 Marshall and Messenger, 1996 Mäthger et al., 2006). They can achieve spectral and color discrimination by exploiting chromatic aberration and pupil shape (Stubbs and Stubbs, 2016), but this system could work for only a narrow range of visual tasks (Gagnon et al., 2016). The giant (Architeuthis) and the colossal (Mesonychoteuthis) squids have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, however their characteristics suggest they are mainly used for detecting and identifying bioluminescent waves generated by sperm whales during their dive into the deep, thus protecting them from potential predation, rather than detecting prey at long distances (Nilsson et al., 2012). The importance of the visual system to locate prey is also reflected in the ability for aerial capture, such as, when Sepia officinalis is able to attack and capture prey shown above the water surface by an experimenter (Boletzky, 1972). The complexity of the visual system of cephalopods is also achieved through extra-ocular light perception capabilities, providing an intricate network of sensory devices on their skin (see also Kingston et al., 2015 Ramirez and Oakley, 2015 Kelley and Davies, 2016). In addition, cephalopods are sensitive to polarized light and polarization vision serves to enhance the detection and recognition of prey. Squid hatchlings attack planktonic prey under polarized illumination at a 70% greater distance than under depolarized illumination (Shashar et al., 1998) and the polarization vision helps cuttlefish to see further into turbid water and to better detect prey (Cartron et al., 2013).

Sensory capabilities are not limited to vision. Cephalopods have sensory receptors that form the lateral line system, which detects gentle water currents and vibrations. Ciliated primary sensory hair cells, sensitive to local water movements, are arranged in epidermal lines located on the arms, head, anterior part of dorsal mantle and funnel (e.g., Sundermann, 1983 Budelmann and Bleckmann, 1988 Budelmann, 1994 Lenz et al., 1995) and are known to provide sensory capabilities in detecting prey (Komak et al., 2005). In fact, cuttlefish are able to catch small shrimp in the darkness and behavioral experiments showed they use the epidermal lines to detect prey (Budelmann et al., 1991).

Distant chemoreceptor organs such as, olfactory organs and rhinophores, further provide additional sensory capabilities. Olfactory organs are paired, oval shaped organs situated on either side of the head, ventrally behind the eye and near the mantle edge. Their possible role in prey detection is poorly understood. Water containing food odor (shrimp) is detected by S. officinalis (Boal and Golden, 1999) and embryos exposed to the odors of prey later influences prey choice in the same species (Guibé et al., 2010). Increased ventilation rates in response to prey chemicals was described for Eledone cirrhosa (Boyle, 1986) and positive chemotaxis for Octopus maya during Y-maze experiments, with amino acids (alanine, proline), nucleotids (ATP), and crab extract functioned as excitants, while betaine and taurine functioned as arrestants (Lee, 1992). The rhinophores of Nautilus are paired organs located below each eye and open to the exterior by a narrow pore. They are similar to the olfactory organs but are significantly larger (Basil et al., 2005).

In addition, cephalopods have contact receptors in the tentacles, sucker rims, and lips known to allow sensing of a broad spectrum of chemical and mechanical signals. Sucker receptors are more elaborated in octopus. There are about 10,000 chemoreceptor cells in a single sucker of an octopod, but only about 100 are present in the sucker of a cuttlefish (Budelmann, 1996). The food searching habit of benthic octopods (see below Speculative pounce), that make extensive use of the arms and suckers exploring rocks and crevices, may justify this marked difference. In contrast, cuttlefish use their arms mostly for manipulating their prey (Chichery and Chichery, 1988). Contact receptors located in lips of octopus and cuttlefish are more advanced in structure and organization than those of squid. As cuttlefish and octopus are more sedentary and benthic than pelagic squid, they may rely more on tactile and chemical stimuli (Emery, 1975). Chemical receptors in cephalopods help them to locate prey and also to avoid unwanted prey. Cuttlefish were able to learn that a prey is not acceptable food, to recognize and to avoid it and, as a result, to choose a usually non-preferred prey when necessary (Darmaillacq et al., 2004).


Scaling-Up from Individual to Ecosystem-Level Impacts

Functionally linking individual-level characteristics to communities and ecosystem processes is among the biggest challenges to understanding the mechanisms of and responses to human-induced environmental change (Levin 1992, Gilbert et al. 2015, Cooke et al. 2017). ALAN has the potential to influence evolutionary and population trajectories by altering behaviors that are mediated by visual sensitivity, habitat selection and orientation, and circadian activity rhythms of aquatic organisms. Furthermore, because natural light drives primary production and trophic interactions (e.g., grazing, predation), ALAN may alter estuarine communities, with ramifications for food-web structure and ecosystem functioning (Table 1, Fig. 1). For instance, Bolton et al. (2017) observed increased predatory fish behavior under ALAN in an Australian harbor, which in turn was associated with shifts in prey fish and sessile invertebrate community structure.

Here, we consider how individual- and population-level responses to ALAN can mediate potential impacts on estuarine community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. Specifically, we address how ALAN may affect (i) individual and species-to-population and -community responses and (ii) community-to-ecosystem responses.

Linking Individual and Species Responses to Population and Community Dynamics

Individuals are expected to respond to ALAN-related changes in the light environment thus, we expect modification of individual activities to translate into population- and community-level effects. As examples, we focus on two individual-level mechanisms—trophic-niche partitioning and movement of estuarine organisms—that are closely tied to lighting regimes and that might be expected to affect community structure under ALAN.

Temporal-Niche Partitioning

Natural light cycles structure temporal-niche partitioning in ecological communities, as community interactions are driven by energetic and risk trade-offs at different times of day. The temporal predictability of resource distribution and predation risk has led to ecomorphological adaptations for diurnal, nocturnal, or cathemeral activity. Diurnal disposition has led to the evolution of greater morphological, optical, and trophic diversity. Yet nearly 15% of all described fishes feed, spawn, or migrate nocturnally during at least one life-history stage (Hölker et al. 2010b). Although ocular adaptations allow for optimal visual performance at certain diel intervals, the strength of competitive interactions also drives optimal foraging strategies (Brown et al. 1999). The constriction or expansion of diel niches can largely depend on shifts in predator communities (McCauley et al. 2012) and may contribute to the avoidance of competitive exclusion and mediate coexistence among predators, prey, and competitor species (Kronfeld-Schor and Dayan 2003). Diel-niche partitioning based on differences in photopic vision capabilities has been suggested as a mechanism that reduces competition among diurnal (e.g., great egret, Ardea alba), cathemeral (e.g., roseate spoonbill, Platalea ajaja), and nocturnal (e.g., black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax) wading birds (Britto and Bugoni 2015). Under ALAN conditions, we may then expect a reorganization or a breakdown of temporal niche partitioning with implications across the estuarine community.

ALAN also has the potential to alter competitive interactions via changes in day-night activity of predators, prey, and competitors in estuarine communities (Fig. 5). For example, ALAN disrupts orientation of sea -turtle hatchlings, yet it may also increase hatchling predation by birds, reptiles, and mammals as the hatchling turtles disperse from nest to sea. Sea-turtle nesting beaches are among the few, if not the only, nearshore aquatic habitats managed for ALAN intensity and spectra (Butler 1998). However, early studies on light pollution gleaned some understanding of its effects on community interactions on coastal beach habitats researchers observed limited foraging (i.e., number of seeds harvested) and reduced patch preference for ALAN-treated (incandescent and LPS lighting) habitat by the nocturnal beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus leucocephalus) (Bird et al. 2004). Later studies attributed this response to a heightened perceived risk of predation (Falcy and Danielson 2013, Wilkinson et al. 2013). By influencing risk trade-offs for individuals, ALAN may transform intraguild competitive interactions. Diurnal mice congeners in this habitat were not more active under ALAN conditions (Rotics et al. 2011), implying that both species may have faced increased daytime competition for resources. In some scenarios, using ALAN to induce these behavioral shifts may provide a unique management approach. For example, exposing the nocturnal signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting at night inhibited activity and competitive interactions with native crayfish species (Thomas et al. 2016). However, chronic exposure to ALAN may lead to habituation and thresholds (intensity or duration) at which behaviors depend on physiological sensitivity and predation-risk regime. Facilitative diurnal foraging by nocturnal fishes has been observed in predator-depauperate reefs in the Pacific atolls (McCauley et al. 2012) suggesting that, in certain cases, predation risk can be a stronger force in structuring day-night communities than visual sensitivity. Facilitative nocturnal foraging by diurnal predators has been observed with wading birds (Santos et al. 2010, Dwyer et al. 2013) and fishes (Becker et al. 2013) in estuarine habitats with implications on prey activity. Understanding the short-term and long-term effects of ALAN on competitive interactions will be valuable in predicting how communities will respond to this environmental stressor over time.

Cross-boundary fluxes of prey represent a key mechanism linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (reviewed in Baxter et al. 2005, Sullivan and Rodewald 2012). Here, we highlight the potential influences of ALAN on avian consumers in estuaries that feed on both aquatic insects (larval and emergent), other aquatic invertebrates, and fish. In particular, wading birds (i.e., shorebirds and long-legged waders) are both permanent and transient residents in temperate and tropical estuaries. Waders are highly effective visual and tactile foragers (with color vision mediated by four cone photoreceptor classes) and often exhibit sensitivity to UV light (Hart 2001a). There are important differences in the visual morphology of wading birds associated with foraging tactic and time of day (McNeil et al. 1992, Thomas et al. 2006). Visual foragers that feed both during the day and night (e.g., plovers and stilts) have a higher density of retinal photoreceptors compared to tactile-feeding sandpipers (Rojas de Azuaje et al. 1993, Rojas et al. 1999a). More specifically, species that forage at crespuscular or nocturnal periods have greater rod densities and rod/cone ratios (Rojas de Azuaje et al. 1993, Rojas et al. 1999a, b, McNeil et al. 2004). A visual system most sensitive to wavelengths in which up-welling light from the water is rich and surface reflectance relatively poor (425 to 500 nm for clear blue oceanic water) is best suited for seeing through the water surface (Lythgoe 1968), but that is rarely observed. Birds that look through an aquatic surface to locate prey tend to have a relatively high proportion of long-wavelength-sensitive cones and yellow-red ocular filters (Hart 2001a, b). ALAN implications: Collisions with lighted structures over land (e.g., buildings with reflective surfaces) and at sea (e.g., vessels) represent the most direct impact of ALAN on aquatic birds. These events are especially common in urban areas, posing an additional threat to nocturnal migrants including shorebirds and wading birds that tend to fly at lower elevations (Evans Ogden 1996, Loss et al. 2014, Rodriguez et al. 2017). Indirect effects of ALAN on aquatic-associated birds are less understood however, understanding their visual physiology may help glean insight on potential responses. Analysis of spectral sensitivity of 16 avian species to artificial light spectra suggests that, like other visual organisms, they would be most affected by LED lighting and less by LPS and other lights with long-wavelength shifted spectra (Davies et al. 2013). This analysis was largely based on songbirds and future research should address whether visual sensitivities of aquatic-associated birds may lead to similar or distinct response. One of the most likely responses of wading birds may be an increase in activity throughout the night under ALAN (Gaston et al. 2013), which may exert additional top-down pressures on fish and aquatic invertebrates with concomitant repercussions to aquatic ecosystems, such as estuaries (e.g., predation-induced reductions in densities of herbivorous fish and invertebrates may release aquatic primary producers from grazing pressure and lead to an increase in primary productivity)

Natural lighting regimes have been shown to drive activity and distribution of different size and trophic classes in estuarine fish communities. In estuarine mangroves, for instance, nocturnal fish assemblages are often composed of planktivores and piscivores, whereas detritivores have been shown to dominate diurnal communities (Ley and Halliday 2007). In an estuary of South Africa, Becker et al. (2013) used acoustical survey methods to record the effect of a sodium-vapor floodlight on the abundance and behavior of different size classes in the fish community. Observations included a shift from exploratory behavior or foraging activity to more vigilant behavior by smaller fishes when exposed to nocturnal lighting, while larger predators took advantage of a sit-and-wait foraging tactic at the edge of the light-dark boundary. A change in species-specific predatory behavior altered community dynamics by reorganizing the size structure of the nocturnal fish assemblage.

Both terrestrial and aquatic species that rely heavily on prey with phototaxic behaviors (e.g., aquatic insects) often demonstrate facultative nocturnal activity to exploit ALAN-related foraging opportunities. An increase in predator-prey interactions mediated by ALAN could potentially redefine optimal-foraging strategies. Because many swimming prey and invertebrates in muddy estuarine habitats are closer to water and sediment surfaces at dusk and at night, visual predators may forage more efficiently in estuarine habitats under artificial lightscapes. Visually feeding wading birds that forage opportunistically under artificial light are thought to exert low predation pressure (i.e., lower catch success) compared to daytime foraging (Santos et al. 2010, Dwyer et al. 2013), yet nocturnal activity may have non-consumptive indirect effects. Yeager et al. (2016) observed that the simulated presence of a wading bird tripled foraging interactions between mangrove crab (Aratus pisonii) and a euryhaline mesopredator, the gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus λmax = 513 and 560 nm, McComb et al. 2013). As crabs move to lower-root habitat structure to avoid detection from wading birds, they may become prey for visual fish predators. The strength of this and similar interactions should vary depending on the spatial and temporal distribution of prey and predators (Alvarez et al. 2013) throughout an estuary with implications for top-down trophic effects.

Dispersal, Migration, and Foraging Movement of Estuarine Organisms

Dispersal of riverine and marine invertebrates is a vital mechanism driving population dynamics and habitat connectivity in estuaries (Chew et al. 2015). By affecting aerial dispersal of adult aquatic insects (Horváth et al. 2009, Boda et al. 2014), ALAN hinders insect recruitment and prey availability for higher consumers (Horváth et al. 2009, Robertson et al. 2010). The potential consequences of ALAN on aquatic dispersal dynamics (i.e., organisms moving/dispersing through the water) are less clear. Dispersal of planktonic invertebrates and larvae are passive processes driven by the physical movement of water (i.e., downstream, tidal, and surface current flow reviewed in Norcross and Shaw 1984). In estuaries, these processes are mediated by tidal dynamics (i.e., timing, stratification, and mixing). Passive dispersal and active migrations by zooplankton and mobile consumers are also strongly linked with seasonal and diel light cycles (Brittain and Eikeland 1988, Palmer et al. 1996). For example, larval invertebrate drift in freshwater systems has been shown to peak during nocturnal periods, which aligns with lower predation risk (Flecker 1992, Miyasaka and Nakano 2001, Hernandez and Peckarsky 2014). If predator activity increases under ALAN, nocturnal drift communities may face elevated perceived risk of predation. Although nocturnal activity generally persists even if predators are experimentally or naturally excluded (Flecker 1992, Hampton and Duggan 2003), foraging and drift behaviors may vary based on the type of predator (e.g., active visual predators vs. smaller tactile predators Peckarsky and McIntosh 1998). Nocturnal drift activity by stream invertebrates reduced following the addition of ALAN (Henn et al. 2014, Manfrin 2017), suggesting that ALAN can enhance, or exert a stronger effect than, predation risk on nighttime foraging and dispersal.

Zooplankton exhibit passive and active migration behavior that varies across tidal, diel, and lunar cycles. For example, in tropical estuaries, diel vertical migrations are induced by light and tidal patterns these dynamics can differ among species based on salinity tolerance (Chew et al. 2015). Species adapted to lower salinity conditions ascend for nocturnal flood tides and descend for diurnal ebb tides whereas euryhaline and stenohaline species exhibit the opposite behavior to maintain optimal water-column position in the estuary. In a North Wales estuary, macroinvertebrates in the drift in a tidal freshwater area were also spatially distributed based on salinity tolerances. Freshwater chironomids, caddisflies, stoneflies, and mayflies drifted downstream whereas marine copepods and oligochaetes often exhibited “reverse” drift as the flood tide moved them upstream (Williams and Williams 1998). If the onset of drift behaviors is interrupted due to ALAN-mediated changes in predator behavior, estuarine invertebrates could experience physiological stressors (e.g., osmotic stress) that influence fitness. Light is often the primary factor regulating migrations for nocturnal and euryhaline species (Flecker 1992). Notably, the synchronization of vertical positioning within the water column and tidal regime determines upstream-downstream movement and retention within the estuary (Chew et al. 2015). Even minor changes in light can influence migration patterns (Haney 1993, Ringelberg 1999). Thus, spill-over of ALAN into estuarine habitats may desynchronize this process with consequences for recruitment, community composition, and adjacent trophic levels. For example, if zooplankton are largely confined by ALAN to deeper depths than under natural lighting conditions, prey availability to surface planktivores (e.g., nocturnally adapted juvenile and other planktivorous fishes) is likely to be reduced.

Few studies have addressed how an ALAN-shifted nocturnal plankton community may affect higher trophic-level consumers. Artificial light-addition treatments have demonstrated potential shifts in the abundance and community structure of drift invertebrates (Henn et al. 2014). In freshwater streams, experimental light treatments (HPS) reduced the density of night-time drift by about 50% but did not affect drift-foraging cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) growth rates (Perkin et al. 2014b). Despite impacts on invertebrate prey during this short-term study, predator responses may take longer to detect than those of primary consumers. In the short-term, ALAN can extend foraging conditions for visual predators, allowing them to compensate with alternative resources.

Natural light also regulates dispersal, diel migrations, and circadian behaviors of many coastal and estuarine fishes throughout ontogeny (Bradbury et al. 2006, Naylor 2006, Epifanio and Cohen 2016). For example, nocturnal movements by adult and juvenile grunts (Haemulidae) to foraging habitats are synchronized by size class and cued by changes in underwater light level (McFarland et al. 1979). Similarly, juvenile sockeye salmon (Onchorhyncus nerka) exhibit diel vertical migration to maintain position in an optimal light environment that minimizes their exposure to predation (Scheuerell and Schindler 2003). Artificial light has the potential to mask circadian light cues and thus disrupt the adaptive significance of these behaviors (Kurvers and Hölker 2015). For example, elevated ALAN intensities in mesocosm trials led to a delay and desynchronization of fry dispersal of Atlantic salmon (Riley et al. 2012, 2015). In natural systems, a disturbance of temporal movement patterns of fry would have implications for larval and juvenile survivorship due to increased risk of predation (Stich et al. 2015).

Seasonal and diel migrations by consumers can also affect estuarine connectivity (Nagelkerken 2009, Rosenblatt et al. 2013, Sheaves et al. 2015). Although there is inter- and intraspecific variability in diel foraging among estuarine fishes (Ramirez-Martinez et al. 2016), many species (e.g., Lutjanidae) seek refuge in tidal mangroves during the day and migrate at night to feed in soft-bottom habitats. As another example, nocturnal foraging by reef-dwelling grunts (Haemulidae) is temporally partitioned migration from resting to foraging habitats occurs chronologically for groups at different stages of ocular development (McFarland et al. 1979, Robinson et al. 2011). The spectral composition of light changes rapidly during dusk, requiring the eye to adjust to a blue-green dominated environment. During dusk, retinomotor movement (specifically the shift from stimulation of yellow-orange cones to predominantly blue-green cones in the retina) affects the timing and duration of foraging migrations by grunts traveling among coastal reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitats (McFarland et al. 1979, McFarland and Wahl 1996). Disruption or delay of visual adjustment under ALAN conditions may inhibit foraging activity and increase predation risk at diel or ontogenetic intervals of poor visual acuity. Studies have highlighted the stark changes in fish communities that occur across a day-night period (Zapata et al. 2014), as well as their importance for nursery functioning (Nagelkerken et al. 2000), suggesting that dark periods can support species coexistence and high biodiversity. The introduction of ALAN is likely to lead to the restructuring or loss of diel community turnover.

Linking Community Responses to Ecosystem Processes: Food Webs as a Case Study

ALAN impacts on individuals-to-communities will play out at the ecosystem scale via its alteration of food webs and energy flow. Flows of energy represent an ecosystem process by which nutrients, organic matter, and prey are transferred across and within ecosystem boundaries (e.g., aquatic-terrestrial) by abiotic (e.g., fluvial and tidal flow) and biotic (e.g., movement of consumers) vectors. Trophic networks (i.e., food webs) reflect energy pathways, species interactions, biodiversity, and ecosystem productivity (Link et al. 2005) and thus integrate individual, species, and community responses to environmental change (Thompson et al. 2012).

Quantitative measures of food-web structure—such as food -chain length (FCL), interaction strengths, and connectance—describe the topology of trophic networks and functional ecosystem properties (Thompson et al. 2012). For example, the number of transfers of energy from basal organisms to apex predator (i.e., FCL) can interact with biodiversity to affect secondary production and biomass accumulation. For instance, in the seagrass communities of the York River estuary, predators regulate the grazer community and thus promote algal production (Duffy et al. 2005). ALAN-induced changes in biodiversity and trophic networks could contribute to declines of ecosystem functions (Hooper et al. 2012) and destabilization of coastal ecosystems (Saint-Béat et al. 2015).

In estuaries, we expect increasing levels of ALAN to alter how energy is transferred across multiple gradients (e.g., freshwater-to-marine, aquatic-to-terrestrial, and vice versa). For example, ALAN may delay leaf fall for deciduous trees (Bennie et al. 2016), affecting the magnitude and timing of nutrient inputs in the form of leaf detritus into aquatic habitats and thus shifting aquatic ecosystem metabolism. Furthermore, the relative openness of the canopy during this transition has implications for phytoplankton production (via light intensity). Increased or continuous light exposure may induce photo-saturation and -inhibition in aquatic primary producers (Henley 1993), influencing algal communities and production. For example, experimental ALAN-addition led to a 43 to 57% (seasonally dependent) decrease in overall periphyton biomass and altered community composition in an alpine stream (Grubisic et al. 2017). Thus, because exposure to ALAN and in particular to LED white lights can affect primary producer biomass and community composition in freshwater systems (Grubisic 2018), bottom-up food-web effects might be expected in estuaries as well.

Phytoplankton productivity typically varies along estuarine gradients in response to light limitation often associated with turbidity (Harding et al. 1986, Cloern 1987) as such, ALAN may induce differential impacts on carbon assimilation by phytoplankton across an estuary. Beyond its potential indirect effects on consumers via primary production, ALAN exposes terrestrial and aquatic consumers to markedly distinct spectral and temporal patterns of light, and directly influences consumer interactions that mediate aquatic-terrestrial trophic linkages. Further, ALAN is expected to advantage taxa that utilize light as a resource to locate prey, but hamper those using darkness as a resource to hide from prey or predators (Davies et al. 2012, Gaston et al. 2013). In this way, such taxon-specific responses may elicit top-down trophic impacts on community structure (reviewed in Bennie et al. 2015a).

Aquatic-Terrestrial Trophic Linkages

Food-web interactions across the aquatic-terrestrial boundary represent a high level of system integration that reflects multiple structural and functional properties of both ecosystems (Fig. 5). In freshwater systems, emergent aquatic insects have been shown to be a critical nutritional subsidy for a suite of riparian consumers including arthropods, birds, mammals, and reptiles (Baxter et al. 2005, Paetzold et al. 2005, Fukui et al. 2006). For example, emerging aquatic estuarine insects have been linked to nearshore orb-weaving spider distribution in a Florida estuary (Zapata and Sullivan 2018). Riparian birds also can be highly dependent on emerging insects, either directly as a food source or indirectly through other prey that feed on emerging insects (e.g., spiders Alberts et al. 2013, Kautza and Sullivan 2016). Thus, ALAN impacts on organismal behavior and physiology, or on key ecosystem processes such as aquatic (or terrestrial) primary productivity and nutrient cycling is expected to propagate through linked aquatic-terrestrial food webs with cascading implications (Grubisic et al. 2017, Manfrin 2017). For instance, night lighting has been shown to influence the feeding activity of riparian bats due to increased density of insect prey attracted to light (Kuijper et al. 2008) and the foraging activity of wading birds via increased visibility of prey (Dwyer et al. 2013). Working in a stream system, Meyer and Sullivan (2013) found that higher ALAN levels were associated with an increase in the density, diversity, and body size of terrestrial arthropods entering the stream, with concomitant reductions in emergent insect body size and community diversity. Furthermore, their work suggested shifts in the timing of aquatic insect emergence, with peaks occurring later in the summer under higher ALAN levels. ALAN-induced changes in the composition, timing, and phenology of emergent insect communities in estuaries are likely to affect a suite of insectivorous species (lizards, birds, bats, etc.) and alter food-web dynamics through multiple mechanisms. For example, ALAN may affect FCL—and thus energy flow through ecosystems, nutrient cycling, freshwater-atmospheric carbon exchange, and bioaccumulation of contaminants in humans via consumption of top predators (Sabo et al. 2010 and references therein). In fact, Sullivan et al. (in press) found that invertebrate FCL was lower under ALAN in an urban stream-riparian ecosystem, in part implicating a loss of functional diversity at the community level. To a certain extent, shifts in FCL (which may be positive in some circumstances see Sullivan et al. in press) under ALAN likely occur via greater predation by improving vision of predators, increasing abundance of positively phototactic prey, or attracting new predators (Becker et al. 2013, Bolton et al. 2017).

Management and Conservation Implications of ALAN Across Levels of Biological Organization

More than a decade after Longcore and Rich’s (2004) seminal review of ecological consequences of ALAN, governing policies that regulate artificial light emissions are rare. The well-known example of replacing broad-spectrum light with longer-wavelength light to decrease sea -turtle hatchling mortality (Witherington and Martin 2003) addressed population-level issues by understanding individual-level responses (Madliger 2012). The Dark Sky Initiative (International Dark Sky Association 2003) is now setting the stage for management of ALAN in many protected areas in the United States with the designation of “Dark Sky Parks.” The Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO) and The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America developed the Backlight-Uplight-Glare (BUG) rating system of outdoor luminaires that evaluate their performance in terms of light trespass, sky glow, and high-angle brightness (California Lighting Technology Center 2014). Together with maximum allowable BUG ratings for various lighting zones (e.g., protected areas are classified as Lighting Zone 0) developed by the International Dark Sky Association and MLO, this creates best-practice guidelines to assist managers in ensuring the appropriate lighting characteristics. The designation of Dark Sky Parks in estuaries and coastal-marine areas (Davies et al. 2016) will further encourage ALAN management practices that minimize individual-to-ecosystem-level impacts. A recent global risk assessment of light pollution impacts reported that 16.8% of protected lands, including mangrove forests, in the United States are subjected to ALAN (Aubrecht et al. 2010b). Meanwhile, an understanding of ALAN effects on the physiology and behavior of animals (Navara & Nelson 2007 Hölker et al. 2010b), community structure, and ecosystem functioning is needed to shape management priorities and strategies. Certainly, the trends of intensifying artificial lightscapes in coastal regions demand future research that quantifies ALAN effects on individual organisms and importantly, how individual responses scale-up to community and ecosystem responses.

Increasingly, research is pointing to ways to mitigate the effects of ALAN (Azam et al. 2015, Verovnik et al. 2015). Gaston et al. (2012) offer five main categories of mitigation measures: maintaining and creating dark areas, reducing light trespass, dimming, part night-lighting, and changing spectra. Restricting use of ALAN adjacent to natural areas to certain timeframes and to limited spectral ranges, for instance, allows communities to ensure public safety while minimizing ecological impacts. Part-night lighting approaches are effective in minimizing impacts on crepuscular periods, which have been shown to be important times of activity (Day et al. 2015). Whereas these strategies focus on mitigating effects on animals directly impacted by ALAN, maintaining circadian behaviors and community interactions during critical periods could support ecosystem functioning (e.g., consumer-mediated connectivity). When lighting is needed to enhance human safety, implementing technologies such as motion-sensing lights, LED lights with spectra that reduce overlap with common visual sensitivities (short wavelengths), and limited-angle lighting that reduces exposure to a narrow area could mitigate ecological impacts (Schroer and Hölker 2017). As with other ecosystem types, mitigation strategies will need to be considered in the context of both the relative weight of scientific evidence in their favor and the potential negative consequences to human communities, perceived or real.


The Sea

John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for this novel, and what a well-deserved honour and tribute for this masterfully written, poignant and deeply moving story.

I read somewhere that John Banville is considered “a writer’s writer”. I can definitely see that. On the other hand, he is also “a reader’s writer” because I am a reader, and thousands of other readers have also enjoyed Mr. Banville’s writing.

This is Max Morden’s story and he narrates throughout. Seamlessly, we follow him along John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for this novel, and what a well-deserved honour and tribute for this masterfully written, poignant and deeply moving story.

I read somewhere that John Banville is considered “a writer’s writer”. I can definitely see that. On the other hand, he is also “a reader’s writer” because I am a reader, and thousands of other readers have also enjoyed Mr. Banville’s writing.

This is Max Morden’s story and he narrates throughout. Seamlessly, we follow him along as he talks about boyhood summers somewhere on the South coast of Ireland. He refers to a nearby town as Ballymore and the summer spot as a nearby village, . . . let’s call it Ballyless. In the present, he is in mourning and having a difficult time dealing with his grief. He drinks too much, ignores his work, and is intent on seeking some answers, or something he can hang onto, from his past summers when he was young.

We meet the Grace family: Carlo, Connie, their children Chloe and Myles, and their minder or perhaps governess, Rose. This family is perceived by Max as his social superiors but he is drawn to them for many reasons – partly curiosity, partly out of loneliness, and somewhat out of boredom. The Graces fascinate him, especially noticeable while he relates his experiences with them as a boy. However, with all the time that has passed between then and now, their once large summer home has become a boarding house, and he seeks it out to stay in and perhaps looks to his past to help him heal.

As Max relates his story, moving back and forth between then and now, it is clear that his past influenced his future, and that his ‘now’ is also very much influencing how he views his past. He argues with himself, chastising himself at times for not being clear about a point. Sometimes he will make the point again – the same point using different words. Sometimes he corrects his course in the narrative with an addition that makes it clearer. Sometimes he says he is digressing too far or embellishing, so scratch that, and this is how it was. Of course, once it is stated, it’s not easy (nor is it prudent) to forget it and buy in completely to the new perspective.

This is not a long book, although it definitely is not one to attempt to rush through. The author sets the pace, takes control of this story, and doesn’t let it go for a moment. I was a very willing passenger on this journey with Max and there were times that something he said startled my own past memories into my reading experience. Countless times I had to set the book down and indulge in my own personal reveries. In most respects they weren’t connected to the story except by a small filament of invisible thread, yet once the thread was pulled into my sight, I had no choice but to follow it.

Oh! And the words. I wanted to mention the words – some of them I had to jot down because I might need them some day: for a game (like when you have a whole slew of vowels – etiolate could be most helpful), or maybe just because certain words add clarity to what might be a more watery picture without them. This novel is a masterpiece of words used exactly as they should be precisely when they need to be.

I had several quotes highlighted that I especially savoured, and then I changed my mind about adding them to my review. Please, please read this exceptional novel and discover them for yourself. Of one thing I am certain: each person will come away with their own reveries, their own captured words, and the phrases and sentences that moved them the most.

I recommend this to everyone who has ever danced with words and/or read a wonderful story composed of them, and a reminder that this is a slow waltz . . . one that you will always remember.
. more

Ah, the sea - especially the smell of the sea, a phrase as familiar as the idea that aromas have a visceral power to exhume memories we didn’t know we had ever had and lost.

Smells of all sorts permeate the pages of this book and waft up, creating a synaesthetic connection to people and places in Max’s life. My second-hand paper book added a medley of vague aromas of its own. Not something to read on Kindle (though for me, nothing is).

This is an intensely sensual book, but not in the u

Ah, the sea - especially the smell of the sea, a phrase as familiar as the idea that aromas have a visceral power to exhume memories we didn’t know we had ever had and lost.

Smells of all sorts permeate the pages of this book and waft up, creating a synaesthetic connection to people and places in Max’s life. My second-hand paper book added a medley of vague aromas of its own. Not something to read on Kindle (though for me, nothing is).

This is an intensely sensual book, but not in the usual sense. It’s about the power of one of the senses, smell, in the context of bereaved reminiscence. Max frequently mentions the smell of things. Not all are pleasant, but they colour his memories in a profound way.

Smell and taste are interdependent. Unlike the other senses, it’s almost impossible to describe them except in comparison with other smells and tastes - hence wines with undertones of apricot, accents of peat, and aftertaste of daisies. I think it’s also why it's so difficult to remember, let alone imagine smells at will. One's mind's eye and ear are so much more biddable. Even touch is easier to recall and describe. Banville prompted me to to try, though.

Sit or lie somewhere comfortable, quiet, and dark. Touch is easy: start by noticing what you can actually feel: the curve of the chair, the fabric and seams of your clothes, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Then remember or imagine touches: the shrill blast of a strong salt sea breeze on your face, stroking the soft silky fur of a cat, the abrasion of warm, wet, sand between your toes.

Now add sights and sounds: the view of the ocean and howl of the wind, the purring of the inscrutable black cat, the colour of the sand and the hiss of the waves coming down on it. You can see and hear and feel it all.

But smell and taste? Much harder. Think of a favourite food (siu mai). You can see it, you can feel its texture, and hear the sound as you bite into it. But can you describe, let alone experience its taste and smell?

Maybe it’s precisely because smells don’t readily convert to similes and metaphors that they are such powerful triggers?

Narrators: Banville = Morden = Cleave?

We sought to escape from an intolerable present in the only tense possible, the past.

Max Morden is barely distinguishable from Alex Cleave in the Eclipse, Shroud, Ancient Light trilogy (Ancient Light reviewed HERE), who is apparently rather similar to Banville. Max and Alex narrate in exactly the same rambling, occasionally introspective, self-centred, curmudgeonly, largely guilt-free, and invariably misogynistic voice. The writing is sweet and sour. And beautiful.

Fluency disguises an underlying inarticulacy in the face of recent and ancient tragedies, where “the cruel complacency of ordinary things” is epitomised by “tight-lipped awkwardness” of furniture, and for the people involved, “From this day forward, all would be dissembling. There would be no other way to live with death.” Even the land is inarticulate: “Marsh and mud flats where everything seemed turned away from the land, looking desperately towards the horizon as if in mute search for a sign of rescue.” And web-toed Myles is literally mute: “Being alone with Myles was like being in a room which someone had just violently left. His muteness was a pervasive and cloying emanation.”

Both narrators are forever questioning their own motives and pointing out the inconsistencies of their memories: “It has all begun to run together, past and possible future and impossible present”. As an art historian, Max is familiar with touching up portraits: “Memories are always eager to match themselves seamlessly to the things and places of a revisited past”

Alex, and especially Max, are trying to write. They both have a problematic daughter, referred to by two names beginning with C. Both had, or fantasised about, a youthful relationship with a mother figure, the similarly named Mrs Grace and Mrs Gray. And in this case, the inadvertent temptress even offers him an apple.

Most importantly, both have past and present tragedies, and revisit the former to understand and cope with the latter.

The ending is rushed (too many events and revelations) and I do not like Max or Alex - to the extent I almost wonder why I like these books: “With women, wait long enough and one will have one’s way” and his reveries are “in the unvarying form of pursuit and capture and violent overmastering”! Nevertheless, Banville’s skill is such that I have some sympathy for them, and I want to know their stories.

* “My daughter… usually has no smell at all” unlike her mother, “whose feral reek, for me the stewy fragrance of life itself, and which the strongest perfume could not quite suppress, was the thing that first drew me to her.”

* “In her last months, she smelt, at her best, of pharmacopoeia.”

* “The cool thick secret smell of milk made me think of Mrs Grace.”

* “A mingled smell of spilt beer and stale cigarette smoke.”

* “As I was heaving myself over in a tangle of sheets… I caught a whiff of my own warm cheesy smell.”

* “She smelled of sweat and cold cream and, faintly, of cooking fat.”

* “A whiff of her sweat-dampened civet scent.”

* “Little animals we were, sniffing at each other. I liked in particular… the cheesy tang in the crevices of her elbows and knees… In general she gave off… a flattish, fawnish odour, like that which comes out of, which used to come out of, empty biscuit tins in shop.”

* Recently bereaved, new places are “like a wedding suit smelling of moth-balls and no longer fitting.”

* “Peppermints… the faint sickly smell of which pervades the house”.

* “The squat black gas stove sullen in its corner and smelling of the previous lodger’s fried dinners.”

* “The smell in the hall was like the smell of my breath when I breathed and rebreathed it into my cupped hands.”

* “Smells of exhaust smoke, the sea, the garden’s autumn rot.”

* Railway “giving off its mephtic whiff of ash and gas.”

* In a tree, “at this height the breeze… smelling of inland things, earth, and smoke, and animals”.

* An abandoned beach hut, “smelling of old urine”.

* On the point of death, “her breath gave off a mild, dry stink, as of withered flowers”.

* "The waves clawed at the suave sand along the waterline, scrabbling to hold their ground but steadily failing."

* “Lead-blue and malignantly agleam.”

* "A white seabird, dazzling against the wall of cloud, flew up on sickle wings and turned with a soundless snap and plunged itself, a shutting chevron, into the sea's unruly back."

* “The seabirds rose and dived like torn scraps of rag.”

* “By the sea, there is a special quality to the silence at night… It is like the silence that I knew in the sickrooms of my childhood… It is a place like the place where I feel that I am now, miles from anywhere, and anyone.”

* “Hearing the monotonously repeated ragged collapse of waves down on the beach.”

Quotes - Memories, Aging, Past, Future

* “The past beats inside me like a second heart.”

* “I have been elbowed aside by a parody of myself.”

* “These days I must take the world in small and carefully measured doses, it is a sort of homeopathic cure… Perhaps I am learning to live amongst the living again… But no, that’s not it. Being here is just a way of not being anywhere.”

* “The image that I hold of her in my head is fraying, bits of pigment, flakes of gold leaf, are chipping off.”

* “Happiness was different in childhood… a matter of simple accumulation, of taking things… and applying them like so many polished tiles to what would someday be the marvellously finished pavilion of the self.”

* "To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth, and cower there, hidden from the sky's indifferent gaze and the harsh air's damagings."

* “Rust has reduced its struts to a tremulous filigree.” A gate.

* The wink of a new neighbour, “jaunty, intimate and faintly satanic”.

* “The smile she reserved for him [husband], sceptical, tolerant, languidly amused.”

* “The chalet that we rented was a slightly less than life-sized wooden model of a house.”

* Father returns “in a wordless fury, bearing the fruits of his day like so much luggage clutched in his clenched fists.”

* “Their unhappiness was one of the constants of my earliest years, a high, unceasing buzz just beyond hearing… I loved them, probably. Only they were in my way, obscuring my view of the future. In time I would be able to see right through them, my transparent parents.”

* “Even from inside the car we could hear the palms on the lawn in from dreamily clacking their dry fronds.”

* “Despite the glacial air a muted hint of past carousings lingered.”

* “Beyond the smouldering sunlight there is the placid gloom of indoors.”

* “Perhaps all life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it.”

* “Light of summer thick as honey fell from the tall windows and glowed on the figured carpets.”

* “That fretful, dry, papery rustle that harbinges autumn.”

* “The Godhead for me was a menace, and I responded with fear and its inevitable concomitant, guilt.” But that’s as a child.

* “Devout as holy drinkers, dipped our faces towards each other… I tasted her urgent breath.”

* “It was as if the evening, in all the drench and drip of its fallacious pathos, had temporarily taken over from me the burden of grieving.”

* “The open doorway from which a fat slab of sunlight lay fallen at our feet. Now and then a breeze from outside would wander in absent-mindedly.”

* "For even at such a tender age I knew there is always a lover and a loved, and knew which one, in this case, I would be.”

* “A series of more or less enraptured humiliations. She accepted me as a supplicant at her shrine with disconcerting complacency… Her willful vagueness tormented and infuriated me.”

* “Is this not the secret aim of all of us, to be no longer flesh but transformed utterly into the gossamer of unsuffering spirit?”

* “A chintz-covered sofa sprawls as if aghast, its two arms flung wide and cushions sagging… Piano, its lid shut, stands against the back wall as if in tight-lipped resentment of its gaudy rival opposite.”

* “The canned audience doing our laughing for us.”

* “The polished pewter light of the emptied afternoon.”
“The copper-coloured light of the late-autumn evening.”

* “Puddles on the road that now were paler than the sky, as if the last of day were dying in them.”

* “Drowning is the gentlest death.”

See Also The Sea, The Sea

I was strongly reminded of this Banville book (and also his Ancient Light) when I read Iris Murdoch's one from 30 years earlier: the title, setting, the narrator's character and introspection. See my review HERE. Banville is more lyrical, slightly less philosophical, and Morden less unpleasant.

Image source of nose sculpture on a beach at Colmslie Beach Reserve in Brisbane:
http://www.weekendnotes.com/im/002/05.

Originally recommended by Dolors, in relation to The Sense of an Ending. Her review of this is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/. . more

The Depths of Vocabulary

John Banville loves words just as they are. Words like losel, and finical, gleet, scurf, bosky, cinerial, and merd that will really screw up your spell-checker. It&aposs part of his masterful charm. Add his ability to put these words together in velvet sentences, and combine sentences into exquisite narrative, and voila: a writer worth his salt. as it were, especially with a title like The Sea. Inspired by Henry James? Very possibly, particularly by The Turn of the Screw and The Depths of Vocabulary

John Banville loves words just as they are. Words like losel, and finical, gleet, scurf, bosky, cinerial, and merd that will really screw up your spell-checker. It's part of his masterful charm. Add his ability to put these words together in velvet sentences, and combine sentences into exquisite narrative, and voila: a writer worth his salt. as it were, especially with a title like The Sea. Inspired by Henry James? Very possibly, particularly by The Turn of the Screw and its permanent mystery. Nonetheless, uniquely and unmistakeably Banville. . more

Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard, 1941-46

What has this luminous painting of a female bather to do with a book called "The Sea", you might ask? More than you might think. Pierre Bonnard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, often painted his wife Marthe. He painted this particular piece when she was in her 70s, and she had died by the time he completed it. We can see by virtue of the recognisable images of female form and bathtub, the general gist of the painting. But the image goes Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard, 1941-46

What has this luminous painting of a female bather to do with a book called "The Sea", you might ask? More than you might think. Pierre Bonnard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, often painted his wife Marthe. He painted this particular piece when she was in her 70s, and she had died by the time he completed it. We can see by virtue of the recognisable images of female form and bathtub, the general gist of the painting. But the image goes beyond the bounds of reality with the misshapen bathtub that accommodates impossibly long and bent limbs, the colours shimmering and waving on the organically undulating walls as though they might just disappear at any moment, a dog on what might be a mat or a square of light on the slanted floor, brushstroke after gorgeous brushstroke coming together to simulate Marthe's moment of private repose. The moment is almost certainly of a younger Marthe, though. It is the artist's memories of an earlier, more youthful moment.

"There is a formula, which fits painting perfectly," wrote Bonnard, "many little lies to create a great truth."

Not only is the narrator of this novella, Max Morden, attempting to write a book about Bonnard, not only did Max's own wife during her painful decline enjoy the silent comfort of baths, but like Bonnard, he is trying to cobble together an image, one of his wife and his life, looking back as an aging widower. These memories and images are as elusive, as distorted, as tricky as the painting. But when brought together, they capture the luminosity, pain and newness of a pivotal summer in his youth.

Max is a flawed and not particularly likeable character, and he's often looking through the bottom of a bottle, which adds to the hazy unreliability of his point of view. His aching melancholy is always felt, an aging man who can only look back and piece together as best he can, a story that is at once innocent and vaguely sinister. This exploration of memory, grief and loss washes over you with many waves, dragging you under to the murky depths.

Reading John Banville is like gazing at a painting. His poetic style is incredibly evocative and visual. He brings his readers to the scene, right up close to his subjects. We can smell their breath, we can see the little imperfections. At the same time, we are not entirely sure how this person got there, were they wearing a blue dress or a floral one? He meanders between past and present, revealing just enough, a trail of literary breadcrumbs. Each brushstroke works with the next to complete the story. This 2005 Booker Prize winner is gorgeous, a masterpiece, delineating the difference between literature and just plain fiction. . more

"And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination."Livro do desassossego, Fernando Pessoa

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it” proclaims Max Morten, narrator and main character of The Sea, after his wife Anna passes away victim of a long and enduring illness.
Drowning in the grief which comes with the vast and ruthless sea of loss, he decides to seclude himself in the little coastal village where he spent his summers as a boy. A flood of unavoidab "And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination."Livro do desassossego, Fernando Pessoa

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it” proclaims Max Morten, narrator and main character of The Sea, after his wife Anna passes away victim of a long and enduring illness.
Drowning in the grief which comes with the vast and ruthless sea of loss, he decides to seclude himself in the little coastal village where he spent his summers as a boy. A flood of unavoidable memories charged with haunted emotion and digressive meditations recreate that dreamy atmosphere that only childhood can nurture. New found memories which serve to wash away his conflicting emotions between the impotence of witnessing life quietly fading away and the cruel complacency of ordinary things allowing death to happen indifferently.

But as Max invades his frozen memories he awakens ghosts long gone though never forgotten and the unsettling and seductive Grace twins, his childhood friends, will become sharply delineated on the wall of his memory, prompting unintended recollections about the strangeness and dislocation of one’s own existence and the immortal burden of being the survivor.
”You are not even allowed to hate me a little, any more, like you used to” says Anna to Max with a sad, knowing smile. Isn't it true that we can’t help hating the ones we love the most? We are human beings after all. And the guilt and the anger and the violence which come after our beloved have been irrevocably usurped from us, leaving us alone with all that self-disgust, with no one to save us from ourselves, hating them, the gone, even more.

Banville threads a complex pattern between the gratuitous dramas of memory, past traumas and an intolerable present which engages in eternal conflict with the enduring intensity of the natural world which, with all its ruthless beauty and nonchalance, mocks at our human insignificance. And it is precisely when we are devastated by this insurmountable, catastrophic truth that Banville's crafted poetry starts delivering rhythmic tides of controlled pleasure, dropping pearls of beauty, easing the sting of the meaningless words, holding us together, creating a new pregnant life full of wonder and possibilities.
I’m aware Banville's style might not appeal to every reader, he doesn't rush, he digresses languidly, teasing and eroding your perceptions relentlessly, his mortally serious ways can seem overdone, but I responded to his uncompromising tone, so graceful and precise. Poetry in prose.

Memories may say nothing but they are never silent, pulling and pushing, futilely turned the wrong way, urging us to be drowned and get lost in them, never to return. But somehow these little vessels of sadness, these sinking boats we all are, sailing in muffled silence in this hollow sea of impotence and disregard, manage to catch the smooth rolling swells coming from the deeps only to be lifted and carried away towards the shore as if nothing had happened. And as our feet touch the ground we realize that our lives have been, in spite of everything, in spite of ourselves, acts of pure love and only for that, they are worth living.

(…) and it was as if I were walking into the sea. . more


The story is narrated by Max, a retired art critic, who is mourning the death of his wife, Anna, and now living at The Cedars, which he remembers from his youth. Whether recalling those days when he lived with his family in more modest surroundings and gawked eagerly into the house and its inhabitants, the Graces.

John Banville impresses with his beautiful, splendid and brittle writing. His protagonist Max is governed by his whims, which twists and weakens before its sorrowfulness, his mourning, the sutures of old dislikes, and the trace of his fossilized tears.


Thus, Anna tried to liberate Max of his guilt. Yes, we are allowed to hate those we love and if we can hate is solely because we loved. That’s how human beings can form relationships, by being truthful to themselves. However, Max was not ready to give up on his guilt that still hangs on together with his memories of Anna.

Still drowning in his grief, from his hard and recent loss, we read and feel for its inevitability, like the tide that stops for nothing, and Max unavoidable memories hurt and haunt him. His memories only escalate his sentiment of gloom and remorse. I have to confess that this was one of the scattered moments where I read more than the beauty of Banville well-chosen words his suffering with the loss of his wife touched me deeply.

When my wife died suddenly in 1998 from a cerebral aneurysm, one of the things that I did in the wake of her death was to begin to reconnect with people and places that had meaning both for us as a couple and for me alone. In many cases, I ended up returning to places from my own childhood and reconnecting with people whom I had not contacted for years. Both the process itself and the actual reconnections to past places and friends helped me cope with the loss. It also activated memories that I When my wife died suddenly in 1998 from a cerebral aneurysm, one of the things that I did in the wake of her death was to begin to reconnect with people and places that had meaning both for us as a couple and for me alone. In many cases, I ended up returning to places from my own childhood and reconnecting with people whom I had not contacted for years. Both the process itself and the actual reconnections to past places and friends helped me cope with the loss. It also activated memories that I had either forgotten or had feared I would be unable to recall.

John Bayville’s The Sea is a story that mirrors in some measure my own journey in grief. For Max Morden, the journey to his past was certainly more focused. Following his wife’s death after a long illness, he returned to the seaside town where his family had vacationed in his youth. And his reawakening memories swirled around a family, the Graces, he had met during a single summer when he was around 11 years old. For Max, mystery and tragedy were deeply embedded in his youthful past.

While there are clear differences in Max’s and my returns to our pasts, Max’s emotional responses to working through grief were similar. At one point, toward the end of the novel, Max reflects:

There are times, they occur with increasing frequency nowadays, when I seem to know nothing, when everything I did know seems to have fallen out of my mind like a shower of rain, and I am gripped for a moment in paralyzed dismay, waiting for it all to come back but with no certainty that it will.

I more generally read fiction to open up new horizons for me, new worlds—to help me see and understand with the eyes of others the world around me. The Sea, however, was a far more personal adventure: in a sense, it was a return to old worlds along already trodden roads. I understood much of Max’s inner turmoil and disengagement from the people around him because it all rang true for me in my circumstances.

Apart the story thread, Banville’s language is elegant and often lyrical. Here Max describes a moment when he and the Graces are at the beach:

The sand around me with the sun strong on it gave off its mysterious, catty smell. Out on the bay a white sail shivered and flipped to leeward and for a second the world tilted. Someone away down the beach was calling to someone else. Children. Bathers. A wire-haired ginger dog. The sail turned to windward again and I heard distinctly from across the water the ruffle and snap of the canvas. Then the breeze dropped and for a moment all went still.

Banville fills his novel with the kinds of descriptions that pull the reader directly into the story, seeing, hearing and smelling with the protagonist.

Banville, as Ted Gioia emphasizes in his review of The Sea, also builds his story with words that will send most readers to a dictionary: assegais, horrent, cinereal, knobkerrie, prelapsarian and mephitic (Gioia's selection). It is that use of an elegantly mature vocabulary that seems to off put many readers. He is clearly in his selection of words not an Ernest Hemingway. But he is a different type of stylist than Hemingway. While Hemingway in his classic novels and short stories uses a sparse, tightly-constructed prose that hints at greater depth and meaning (his so-called “iceberg theory”), Banville brings everything to the surface, leaving the reader submerged in a world of profound emotion and surprise tightly controlled by the author. Reading The Sea is not effortless.
. more

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a Booker Prize winner. The language in this short novel is very, very rich, evocative and annoyingly, sent me to the dictionary far too many times for comfort. Banville is just showing off, descending into literary affectation perhaps. Two time-lines interweave as Max, a retired art critic, now living at The Cedars, a grand house of note from his youth, recalls those days when he lived with his family in much more modest surroundings and peered longingly into this place. Of course, it wa This is a Booker Prize winner. The language in this short novel is very, very rich, evocative and annoyingly, sent me to the dictionary far too many times for comfort. Banville is just showing off, descending into literary affectation perhaps. Two time-lines interweave as Max, a retired art critic, now living at The Cedars, a grand house of note from his youth, recalls those days when he lived with his family in much more modest surroundings and peered longingly into this place. Of course, it was not wealth per se that drew his 11 year old interest, but the presence of The Graces, not a religious fascination, but a family. A pan-like, goatish father, Carlo, an earth mother, Constance, white-haired (and thus summoning Children of the Damned notions) twins, a strange mute boy, Myles, who is sometimes comedic and sometimes sinister, a maybe-sociopathic girl, Chloe, and another girl, Rose, who appeared to be a mere friend, but was their governess. That this is left unclear for much of the book seems odd. Young Max enjoys the social step up he gets by hanging out with the twins, and is quite willing to go along with their cruelties to subservient locals, but is most taken with Constance Grace, pining for her in an awakening sexual way, until, of course, his heart, or some bodily part, is stolen by Chloe. There is a scent here of Gatsby-ish longing, and Max is indeed a social climber.

Death figures very prominently in The Sea. “They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide,” is how it opens, and goes on very briefly to summon an image of a rising sea intent on devouring all. I will spare you the final death scene, but Max does indeed cope with death, the passing of his wife, Anna, contemplation of his own ultimate demise and how death, as personified by the sea, not only affected his life, but seems always with us.

This is I suppose a novel of coming and going of age. Banville is quite fond of deitific references, finding a different god or goddess for each of his characters. And his art-critic narrator sprinkles the narration with references to paintings. Sadly for me, I am completely unfamiliar with the works noted, so may have missed key references. Max is not a nice person. He engages in cruel behavior as a child and appears to lack a strong core of humanity, confessing that he doesn’t really know his daughter very well, and not seeming to care much.

I was almost satisfied with the ending, which recalls the most significant event of his youth, but I felt that it left unsatisfactorily unexplained the reasons for its occurrence. I was also frustrated by the slowness of the book. Although it is a short novel, it seemed to take a long time to get going. And the central characters do not call out for any of us to relate to them. All that said, while I might not award it a Booker, I would recommend it. The language is sublime (tote a dictionary while you read. You will need it.) and the payoff is good enough to justify the slow pace.

PS - for a very different and fascinating take on the novel be sure to check out Cecily's review . more

The narrator of The Sea is an odious man. I wasn’t sure I ever understood why Banville made him so odious. As a child he hits his dog for pleasure he pulls the legs off insects and burns them in oil. As an adult, he’s a crude misogynist without knowing he’s a misogynist, a narcissist and a masochistic misanthrope. He makes constant allusions to his acquired humility and wisdom but he comes across throughout the book as largely ignorant and arrogant. There’s no apotheosis. Because Max is present The narrator of The Sea is an odious man. I wasn’t sure I ever understood why Banville made him so odious. As a child he hits his dog for pleasure he pulls the legs off insects and burns them in oil. As an adult, he’s a crude misogynist without knowing he’s a misogynist, a narcissist and a masochistic misanthrope. He makes constant allusions to his acquired humility and wisdom but he comes across throughout the book as largely ignorant and arrogant. There’s no apotheosis. Because Max is presented as a mediocrity with artistic pretensions I was often perplexed how seriously Banville wanted us to take the rarefied outpourings of his sensibility. I certainly found it difficult to reconcile the essential crudeness of Max’s nature with his Proustian sensibility. There was a disconnect between the narrator’s ugly soul and his susceptibility to the beauty of the natural world. At times it seemed like the ambition of this novel was to write as many pretty sentences as possible rather than a novel. You could save yourself time by simply reading all the favourite quotes here rather than the entire novel without missing very much. The writing is relentlessly elegant but often it’s elegant where elegance is inappropriate. It’s vacuously elegant. His aphorisms can appear vacuous too - “The past, I mean the real past, matters less than we pretend.” You could turn that sentence on its head –“The past matters more than we pretend” and it’s no less true. Despite its constant yearning for profundity I didn’t have one eureka moment when he enabled me to see something familiar in a new revelatory light. Like I said I was never sure if he was sending up his character by making a lot of his lofty musings deliberately vacuous, of no consequence whatsoever.

There’s little tension in this novel, no compulsion. It all hinges on what’s essentially a moment of melodrama which didn’t ring true for me. Neither did it explain anything. There are good things, like the descriptions of his childhood crush on his friend’s mother and his dying wife and his response, though once again Banville can’t resist his misanthropic form of dark humour which consistently puts his character in the worst possible light – ironic as he’s always waxing lyrical in the book about the transfiguring nature of light.

The Sea might be described as a grumpy meditation on growing old. I much preferred The Untouchables which had a plot, a sense of purpose Banville could embroider with his elegant prose. . more

The Sea really bugged me. I&aposve never read another John Banville novel, so I don&apost know whether this one is typical of his writing in general, but nothing irritates me more these days than a writer who has considerable gifts at his command who writes novels that function as elegant window displays for the considerable gifts at his command. The plot of the book, such as it is, finds middle-aged Max Morden retiring to a rented house by the sea, near the "chalets" where he spent his boyhood summers, The Sea really bugged me. I've never read another John Banville novel, so I don't know whether this one is typical of his writing in general, but nothing irritates me more these days than a writer who has considerable gifts at his command who writes novels that function as elegant window displays for the considerable gifts at his command. The plot of the book, such as it is, finds middle-aged Max Morden retiring to a rented house by the sea, near the "chalets" where he spent his boyhood summers, to mourn his wife's death and think about the past. The first person account intercuts Max's memories of his wife's final months with his memories of a "significant" summer he spent by the sea, during which he became fascinated with the Graces, a family a rung or two higher on the social ladder than Max himself. I put "significant" in quotation marks, because I can't for the life of me figure out what's significant about Max's relationship with the Graces, other than the opportunity it affords Banville to display his considerable gifts, and -- what's worse -- I can't even fathom what's significant about his wife's death other than the opportunity it affords Banville . . . well, you get the idea. The premise of the novel seems to be "Hey, look at me, everybody, I'm the 'heir to Nabokov.' The back of the book says so. And besides, my book is filled with Beautiful Prose." The linking of Banville's name with Nabokov on the back of the book does Banville a considerable disservice. I kept expecting withering satire and a devastating prose style (Banville is good, but he's not that good), and all I got was the narrator's tendency to pepper his recollections with big, bloated words.

"Character-driven" novels are not of themselves a bad thing. Perhaps my favorite novel of the last thirty years (Gilead) relies more on character than on plot. If you're going to rely on character, however, you'd better make sure your characters are at least one, and preferably all, of the following: a) sympathetic b) compelling c) more than merely a place marker for inflated, if not particularly profound, ruminations on the Big Questions.

One of Banville's passages may illustrate what bothers me most about this book. In the passage, Morden describes the photographs his terminally ill amateur-photographer wife has taken of fellow hospital patients -- all of whom have, apparently cheerfully, consented to expose their scars, wounds, and afflictions for the sake of . . . photographic immortality? . . . the gratification of their exhibitionist desires? . . . the betterment of mankind? I got stuck, as I read this passage, trying to figure out why the people in the photographs had agreed to present their private suffering in so public a fashion. Then I realized they were props, placed on stage to be rearranged and remarked upon, to give the leading man something to do while he wows us with his method acting. Oh, come on, one might object, isn't Yorick's skull a prop? Of course, but it's not merely a prop. We admire Hamlet's ability to make him live again, but that's just it. He makes him live again. Nobody really lives in Banville's novel, including his narrator, and perhaps that's not surprising in a novel that is mostly about death. What's more surprising, though, is that, for all his lovely style, Banville leaves us with very little impression that anyone in this book ever really has lived.

In the book's final passages, Max Morden likens the moment of his wife's death to a moment in his childhood when he had been lifted up by a suddenly surging sea, carried toward shore a bit, and then set down again. It was, he says, "as if nothing had happened. And indeed nothing had happened, a momentous nothing, just another of the great world's shrugs of indifference." That's what it feels like to read . more

I wish to thank my wonderful friend Seemita, who is truly an amazing reviewer, for inspiring me to read this book.

"The silence about me was heavy as the sea."

Silence. It is a special kind of language. The language of the dead, of those long gone, of the forgotten, the misunderstood, the hurt, the mad and, sometimes, the content. What do they tell me? What does silence tell me? What does it tell Max Morden? It tells him a story. The story of his life. It embraces him, caresses him, whispers to hi I wish to thank my wonderful friend Seemita, who is truly an amazing reviewer, for inspiring me to read this book.

"The silence about me was heavy as the sea."

Silence. It is a special kind of language. The language of the dead, of those long gone, of the forgotten, the misunderstood, the hurt, the mad and, sometimes, the content. What do they tell me? What does silence tell me? What does it tell Max Morden? It tells him a story. The story of his life. It embraces him, caresses him, whispers to him of everyone and everything lost. He holds on to it. It is his only companion, his only friend, the lover that will never tire of him. It is his secret path to a better world. The world of the past.

“To be concealed, protected, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to be hidden from the sky’s indifferent gaze and the harsh air’s damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, shaking off the cold present and the colder future”

Yet, he discovers that silence has been his companion his whole life. He knows and understands it like he has never known and understood anybody, including himself.

“I have come to realise how little I knew her. I know so little of myself, how should I think to know another?”

Has he walked into it for so long as to not be able to understand the world around him? Has he truly wanted to? It is often easier to let go of the truth, dispose of it like of unnecessary, heavy and unattractive object and create another version of it, "new reality"

“Which is the more real, the woman reclining on the grassy bank of my recollections, or the strew of dust and dried marrow that is all the earth any longer retains of her?”

Which is more real? The past or the present? And when we cannot find refuge in the past, the present is painful, the future unattainable, unimaginable, where is the sanctuary? Is it within us? What does lay within us besides ourselves? Those whom we refuse to let go of? Max believes that no one is truly gone as long as they are remembered. “And yet people do go, do vanish. That is the greatest mystery of all” Duality. Ambiguity. Isn’t it part of us all, of everything that surrounds us? We die, yet, we go on living. Time passes, nobody can escape change. “At what moment, of all our moments, is life not utterly, utterly changed, until the final, most momentous change of all?” Yet, time is still. Our memory always brings us back to what we thought we’ve left behind. “The past beats inside me like a second heart”. And the more we walk within the realms of our own minds, the more we realize that we are like the sea. Ambivalent. We are cruel and merciful, placid and tempestuous, generous and harsh, known and mysterious. But unlike it, we are boundless.

"The waves before me at the water’s edge speak with animate voice, whispering eagerly of some ancient catastrophe, the sack of Troy, perhaps, or the sinking of Atlantis…I see the black ship in the distance, looming imperceptibly nearer at every instant. I am there. I hear your siren’s song. I am there, almost there."

Our minds, our pasts, are territories we explore, yet, there is so much that is left unexplored. What do they eagerly whisper to us? What song do they sing to us? What is revealed, what is left concealed? Are we ready to take that chance? Are we ready to immerse into the depths of the dark and mysterious past, are we ready to face the cold and painful present, do we dare hope for the obscure future? Who are we, what stories do we have to tell, and to whom do we tell them? Sometimes silence is the only one that listens. Sometimes that’s enough. And sometimes it is not. ”There is a special quality to the silence at night”

P.S. The whole time while reading the book and then, while writing my review, I was listening to The Cure's "Lullaby". I think it fits perfectly . more

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

Max Morden had met once gods. They came in the guise of Grace family. Father, noisy lecherous satyr. Mother, oozing sensuality indolent goddess, will become his first erotic fascination. And twins. Chloe, very mature for her age, feisty girl with rather strong personality and Myles, shy and impish boy. There was Rose yet, nanny or governess, a sad nymph holding a secret in her heart. They rented at the seaside a summer house, called The Cedars.

And no
The past beats inside me like a second heart.

Max Morden had met once gods. They came in the guise of Grace family. Father, noisy lecherous satyr. Mother, oozing sensuality indolent goddess, will become his first erotic fascination. And twins. Chloe, very mature for her age, feisty girl with rather strong personality and Myles, shy and impish boy. There was Rose yet, nanny or governess, a sad nymph holding a secret in her heart. They rented at the seaside a summer house, called The Cedars.

And now, half a century later, widowed and lonely Max is in that place again. He’s a man who never had a personality, not in the way that others have, or think they have. I was always a distinct no-one whose fiercest wish was to be an indistinct someone as he disarmingly admits. He takes a room in the Cedars but memory plays tricks on him. Everything has changed though seems to be the same and invariant. It’s naivety to expect even prospect of return, isn’t it ?

Only the sea appears to be unchangeable.

What is he looking for here ? Alleviation, calm, death, answer, missing piece of the puzzle ?

This memorable summer, painted with golden sun and inky shadow, creates the first plan of the novel. Just then Max had gained this sad knowledge that there is always a lover and a loved and which role he would be playing in that act.

There is another plan as well also given in flashbacks. It concerns Morden’s marriage, illness and finally death of his wife. These two plans are mixing alternately with his present stay at the seaside. Such is the nature of memory that one recollection leads to another gradually unveiling more and more from our past and showing intimate image of our life. The sea then, with its tides, is a record of that process, coming to terms with loss, dismantling of memory, family, love, past .

Banville’s prose, perfectly fitting in with the gray and cold ubiquity of the sea, is elegiac and poetic. And concluding paragraph is profoundly purifying.

I do not remember well that day when the gods departed. But I know where I can find them now. They remain incessantly like insects caught in a drop of resin, like the blades of grass trapped in the amber. They possessed for good this mythical land, that distant Arcadia of my childhood. And I believe that still have the key to that land. . more

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
- John Banville, The Sea

Over the years, I&aposve collected about 3 or 4 Banville books (just bought a slog more). The first was given to me by a girl I liked in HS, but never got around to reading it or dating her. I was finally inspired (or moved?) to read &aposthe Sea&apos (and a couple other Ireland-themed novels) because I was going to spend a week with the wife in Ireland and there is nothing better to read about on vacation than sex*, death, loss and san “The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
- John Banville, The Sea

Over the years, I've collected about 3 or 4 Banville books (just bought a slog more). The first was given to me by a girl I liked in HS, but never got around to reading it or dating her. I was finally inspired (or moved?) to read 'the Sea' (and a couple other Ireland-themed novels) because I was going to spend a week with the wife in Ireland and there is nothing better to read about on vacation than sex*, death, loss and sand. It was beautiful. It was poetry. It was nearly perfect.

It is easy to borrow images and allusions from other critics. It is a snap to fit the Banville piece in the puzzle among his Irish peers (piers?). It is a picnic to park Banville's summer blanket next to Beckett or Joyce (yes, fine, they all dropped from their mother's wombs onto the same emerald island). It is easy to play the literary cousin game and compare Banville to Proust or Nabokov or Henry James. These things are all true. They are also all fictions and obvious short cuts.

I haven't read enough of Banville to say he measures up to Proust or Nabokov, but damn this book was fine. There really must be something in the water because I'm reading Enright's The Gathering right now and my first thought was 'da feck'? Two Man Bookers by Irish novelists about drowning, death and memory. I'm sure there is more than water and whiskey to this island.

Anyway, I loved and adored 'The Sea'. I used those slick little page-markers everytime I came across a line of Banville's that seemed especially quoteable. I gave up when I ran out of markers. The edge of the book looked like a colorful Stegosaurus with markers dancing up and down the pages.

* On a side note. It is VERY rare that a writer can actually write about sex without making me want to run from the room. They either make it too clinical (like a doctor popping zits) or too silly (like the cover of a romance novel) or too ethereal (like clouds copulating). Joyce could do it. Nabokov could do it. And I'm proud to say Banville can do it too. . more


In the Food Web

Predators and Prey

The "pink meanie" jellyfish feeds on moon jellies. (Mary Elizabeth Miller, Dauphin Island Sea Lab)

Jellyfish and ctenophores are carnivorous, and will eat just about anything they run into! Most jellies primarily eat plankton, tiny organisms that drift along in the water, although larger ones may also eat crustaceans, fish and even other jellyfish and comb jellies. Some jellyfish sit upside down on the bottom and have symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) in their tissues, which photosynthesize, and so get much of their energy the way plants do.

While their nematocysts and colloblasts do help them defend themselves, plenty of animals manage to catch and eat jellies: more than 150 animal species are known to eat jellies, including fish, sea turtles, crustaceans, and even other jellyfish. Jellies are the favorite food of the ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), which will migrate thousands of miles for the gelatinous delicacy. Young jellyfish are small enough to be part of the general zooplankton population and are eaten by many animals.

Humans also eat jellyfish: people have fished for jellies for at least 1700 years off the coast of China. Some 425,000 tons (more than 900 million pounds) of jellyfish are caught each year by fisheries in 15 countries, and most are consumed in Southeast Asia. Eating jellyfish may become more common around the world as we overfish more preferable fish species.

Feeding Adaptations

The Stings: Nematocysts and Colloblasts

Stinging cells (nematocysts) line the tentacles of this moon jelly (Aurelia aurita). (© Alexander Semenov)

Jellyfish and ctenophores both have tentacles with specialized cells to capture prey: nematocysts and colloblasts, respectively. Jellyfishes' nematocysts are organelles within special cells (cnidocytes) that contain venom-bearing harpoons. The cell is activated upon touch or chemical cue, causing the harpoon to shoot out of the cell and spear the prey or enemy, releasing toxin—a process that takes only 700 nanoseconds. A small number of jellyfish are very toxic to humans, such as the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) and Irukandji jellyfish (Carukia barnesi), which can cause severe reactions and even death in some people.

Many comb jellies have colloblasts lining their tentacles, which work like nematocysts but release glue instead of venom. Upon touch, a spiral filament automatically bursts out of colloblast cells that releases the sticky glue. Once an item is stuck, the comb jelly reels in its tentacle and brings the food into its mouth. One species of ctenophore (Haeckelia rubra) recycles nematocysts from hydrozoan jellyfish it consumes and uses these to stun and kill prey.

Many Ctenophores, Many Ways to Feed

A beroid ctenophore lunges toward prey with its mouth wide open. (NOAA/OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP))

Comb jellies come in many shapes and sizes, and so within the group there are many ways to feed. The rounded and tentacled cydippids have branched tentacles lined with colloblasts that they use, in the traditional jelly style, like a fishing line to trap food and bring it to their mouths.

The lobate ctenophores have two flattened lobes that reach below their mouths. Special cilia waving between the lobes generate a current to pull planktonic food between the lobes and into the jelly's mouth, allowing them to feed on plankton continuously. They also use colloblast-lined tentacles to catch food.

The tentacle-less beroids depend on their large mouths. Instead of catching food with colloblasts, they swallow their prey (often other ctenophores!) whole and then clamp their mouths shut, giving them no escape route. Inside their mouths they have small cilia that act as teeth, pulling food apart, which also direct the food into the comb jelly's gut.

Defense Adaptations

Color and Bioluminescence

A transparent body helps this tiny comb jelly (Bathocyroe fosteri) blend into the water. (Marsh Youngbluth/MAR-ECO, Census of Marine Life)

Many jellyfish and comb jellies are able to produce light—an ability known as bioluminescence. They have proteins in some tissues that undergo a chemical reaction to produce blue or green light in response to stimuli such as touch. No one's quite sure why jellies bioluminesce, but it seems to be mainly a defense tactic. A bright enough flash could be enough to startle a predator—or to attract an even bigger predator to make the jelly's predator into prey.

Jellies have also adapted their body color to camouflage in the darkness. Most are nearly colorless and transparent, so they can be difficult for predators to see. However, some deep sea jellyfish and comb jellies are a bright red or orange color. Why would they be red instead of black to blend in with the dark water? Red cannot be seen in dark water (deeper than 200 meters), so there's no greater protection from black than red. But red is preferred to black because pigment is easier for animals to produce. Some deep sea jellies just have dark red guts, possibly serving to mask luminescent prey from other larger predators with eyes.


The larval visual system and behavioral responses to visual stimuli

Domino K. Schlegel , Stephan C.F. Neuhauss , in Behavioral and Neural Genetics of Zebrafish , 2020

Visual startle response and visual motor response

The first response to visual stimuli in the larval zebrafish is the visual startle response, which is a sudden movement upon decrease in illumination. It first appears at 68–79 hpf, after the onset of mechanical startle and shortly before the optokinetic reflex ( Easter and Nicola, 1996b ). The visual startle response was shown to be independent of non-retinal photoreceptive cells, since larvae completely lacking eyes did not exhibit the behavior ( Emran et al., 2008 ).

The visual startle response was initially thought to be a defensive behavior ( Easter and Nicola, 1996b ), similar to the adult escape response to a looming predator. However, Burgess et al. have shown that the startle response to dark flashes elicits a so-called O-bend that does not reposition the larva away from the putative predator ( Burgess and Granato, 2007 ). In addition, the response is independent from the Mauthner cell, which mediates mechanical and acoustic startle, and the latency of the response is much longer, compared to these other startle responses. Together, these characteristics of the visual startle make it a rather unsuitable behavior to avoid predation, and it was suggested to be a primarily navigational behavior, which helps the larva to stay in well-lit surroundings, optimal for feeding. Contrasting the visual startle response, a recent study identified a new behavior, termed looming escape response, resembling the adult escape ( Dunn et al., 2016 ). Thus, it becomes evident that the visual system of the larval zebrafish is able to discriminate between whole-field changes in illumination (visual startle) and sudden increases in size of visual stimuli (looming).

Based on the visual startle reflex a motion-independent visual assay testing the larva's ability to detect simple changes in illumination was developed. The assay, called the visual motor response (VMR) ( Emran et al., 2007, 2008 ), involves an automated tracking system that monitors locomotion of individual larvae placed in a 96-well plate in response to dark and light periods. In addition to the stereotypic activity upon light decrements described above, the larvae also reacted with increased activity when the light was turned on. Furthermore, the behavior in between the changing stimuli could be tracked. The reactions to both light and sudden darkness were used to separately assess ON and OFF responses. Since the behavior is not based on motion detection, which is thought to be “color blind” ( Orger and Baier, 2005 ), it further provides the possibility to assess spectral sensitivity: Burton et al. tested this using narrow waveband stimuli in contrast to the generally used broad-spectrum white light ( Burton et al., 2017 ). Discrete wavebands had different effects on components of the VMR, e.g., the typical O-bend. Thus, the authors suggest that they are driven by separate subpopulations of photoreceptors. Their study also has practical implications for experiments using optogenetics in combination with waveband-specific VMR. Finally, machine learning algorithms for behavioral data analysis can be implemented for more reliable high-throughput screens as was presented by Gao et al. using the VMR ( Gao et al., 2014 ).

5.27.2 Introduction

All forms of life are subject to injury. Because injury reduces survival and reproductive success, a safe evolutionary assumption is that, from the beginning of life, there has been strong natural selection for mechanisms that detect incipient injury and elicit protective reactions ( Walters, 1994 ). Such mechanisms are evident in virtually all cells and organisms, and can be seen in ubiquitous cellular repair mechanisms, e.g., for damaged DNA ( White and Allers, 2018 ) or damaged membranes ( Jimenez and Perez, 2015 ). Animals have evolved specialized cells –nociceptors ( Sherrington, 1906 ) – that detect signs of imminent or existing bodily injury (nociception) using a variety of specialized molecular sensors of both injury and inflammatory responses to injury. Nociceptor activity excites neural circuits that control defensive behavior and other adaptive responses to injury, including pain in some species.

What is pain? This question is not straightforward to answer, especially when it comes to assessing pain in species other than our own. In 2019 a task force of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) proposed an updated definition of pain as “an aversive sensory and emotional experience typically caused by, or resembling that caused by, actual or potential tissue injury” ( https://www.iasp-pain.org/PublicationsNews/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=9218 ). This definition, like earlier IASP definitions of pain, asserts that pain is associated with tissue injury (it has a nociceptive component) and that it is an emotional experience (it has a conscious affective component). At present, perhaps the only compelling evidence for the conscious experience of emotions such as pain comes from verbal self-report, which is available solely from a single species, Homo sapiens (and not from all its members) ( Walters and Williams, 2019 ). This means that the cross-species comparative approaches that are required for evolutionary analyses are unavailable for insights into the evolution of conscious pain. Nevertheless, observations from everyday experience and from clinical investigators indicate that the incidence, quality, intensity, and duration of conscious pain in humans are usually controlled by neural activity in nociceptive pathways, and this activity is often associated with behavioral and physiological functions that are accessible for investigation in diverse species ( Walters and Williams, 2019 ).

The focus of this article is on comparative aspects of mechanisms and functions of nociceptive activity that are widespread in the Animal Kingdom and might be related to pain in humans (reflecting either evolutionary convergence of adaptive roles or conservation of molecular substrates). My criterion for inclusion is that the mechanism or function must be documented in species from at least two different phyla ( Fig. 1 B). This means that most of the information covered here is from studies of sensory neurons that selectively respond to injurious or potentially injurious stimuli – primary nociceptors ( Fig. 1 A). That is because, unlike most neurons in human pain pathways, primary nociceptors having functions quite similar to those in humans have been identified unambiguously in diverse animal species in multiple phyla. This review does not address the evolution of neuroanatomical pathways and structures important for pain because almost all of the existing knowledge about pain-related neuroanatomy is restricted to Phylum Chordata, and primarily to mammals. For an interesting illustration of the controversies surrounding evolutionary assumptions about anatomical structures needed for pain, the reader is referred to a target article and numerous commentaries about whether fish feel pain ( Key, 2016 ). In addition, mechanisms that suppress pain-related activity, such as opioid signaling, will not be covered here because too little is known outside of mammals for informative comparisons to be made across phyla (see Walters, 2018a ).

Figure 1 . Phylogenetic relationships of species in which primary nociceptors have been investigated physiologically and molecularly.

(A) Example from Aplysia californica illustrating the characteristic physiological features of a primary nociceptor (from Illich and Walters, 1997 ). The nociceptor is silent in the absence of peripheral stimulation and selectively responds to brief mechanical pressure from a von Frey filament that threatens or causes tissue damage (∼25 g/mm 2 or higher for the delicate siphon tissue tested). A more noxious stimulus, brief strong pinch, causes greater, more prolonged activation, and sensitizes responses to previously subthreshold (15 g/mm 2 ) and suprathreshold (25 g/mm 2 ) stimuli subsequently applied to the same receptive field. (B) Evolutionary relationships among 14 species in which physiologically defined nociceptors have been reported. Estimates for the time when the lineages for these species diverged are indicated as millions of years ago (mya) (e.g., Foley et al., 2016 Kristan, 2016 Telford et al., 2015 ). Species that are the major focus of this chapter are indicated in burgundy (human, rat, mouse, Drosophila, C. elegans, Aplysia, and leech). The phylum to which each species belongs is indicated in blue. Major taxa that are not in the lineages of species that have provided experimental information about nociceptors and related nociceptive behavior are omitted from this partial phylogenetic tree.


After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Some scientists have studied near death experiences (NDEs) to try to gain insights into how death overcomes the brain. What they've found is remarkable, a surge of electricity enters the brain moments before brain death. One 2013 study out of the University of Michigan, which examined electrical signals inside the heads of rats, found they entered a hyper-alert state just before death.

Scientists are beginning to think an NDE is caused by reduced blood flow, coupled with abnormal electrical behavior inside the brain. So the stereotypical tunnel of white light might derive from a surge in neural activity. Dr. Sam Parnia is the director of critical care and resuscitation research, at NYU Langone School of Medicine, in New York City. He and colleagues are investigating exactly how the brain dies.

Our cerebral cortex is likely active 2–20 seconds after cardiac arrest. Credit: Getty Images.

In previous work, he's conducted animal studies looking at the moments before and after death. He's also investigated near death experiences. “Many times, those who have had such experiences talk about floating around the room and being aware of the medical team working on their body," Dr. Parnia told Live Science. “They'll describe watching doctors and nurses working and they'll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them."

Medical staff confirm this, he said. So how could those who were technically dead be cognizant of what's happening around them? Even after our breathing and heartbeat stops, we're conscious for about 2–20 seconds, Dr. Parnia says. That's how long the cerebral cortex is thought to last without oxygen. This is the thinking and decision-making part of the brain. It's also responsible for deciphering the information gathered from our senses.

According to Parnia during this period, "You lose all your brain stem reflexes — your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that is gone." Brain waves from the cerebral cortex soon become undetectable. Even so, it can take hours for our thinking organ to fully shut down.

Usually, when the heart stops beating, someone performs CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). This will provide about 15% of the oxygen needed to perform normal brain function. "If you manage to restart the heart, which is what CPR attempts to do, you'll gradually start to get the brain functioning again," Parnia said. “The longer you're doing CPR, those brain cell death pathways are still happening — they're just happening at a slightly slower rate."

CPR may help retain some brain function for longer. Credit: Getty Images.

Dr. Parnia's latest, ongoing study looks at large numbers of Europeans and Americans who have experienced cardiac arrest and survived. "In the same way that a group of researchers might be studying the qualitative nature of the human experience of 'love,'" he said, "we're trying to understand the exact features that people experience when they go through death, because we understand that this is going to reflect the universal experience we're all going to have when we die."

One of the objectives is to observe how the brain acts and reacts during cardiac arrest, through the process of death, and during revival. How much oxygen exactly does it take to reboot the brain? How is the brain affected after revival? Learning where the lines are drawn might improve resuscitation techniques, which could save countless lives per year.

"At the same time, we also study the human mind and consciousness in the context of death," Parnia said, “to understand whether consciousness becomes annihilated or whether it continues after you've died for some period of time — and how that relates to what's happening inside the brain in real time."

For more on the scientific perspective on a near death experience, click here: