Book Review: Koslow’s The Silent Deep

41IHiN3alrL._AA240_.jpgIn the whirlwind that is my life this summer, I have not been able read or review The Silent Deep. For a general primer on the deep sea, I often reach for and recommend Gage and Tyler’s Deep-Sea Biology. Since 1992 it has been a bible for our field. However, in the last 15 years major advancements in deep-sea sciences have occurred. Koslow’s book provides somewhat of an update to Deep-Sea Biology but also heads in new direction

The book is divided into three sections, 1. Early History of Deep-Sea Exploration, 2. The Ecology of the Deep Sea, and 3. The Human Footprint Across the Deep Sea. The first section is amazing and provides a comprehensive historical portrait of the field. The final section on conservation is insightful, timely, and enriched from Koslow’s central role in marine conservation. The writing is accessible and the first person accounts throughout the text provide an interesting change from other works. The book appears geared toward an educated public or scientists early in their careers.

Overall I enjoyed the book but have two major criticisms. First the middle section on the ecology of the deep sea is brief and is likely to leave even novices wanting more. Some topics such as oxygen minimum zones, body size, and the evolution of deep-sea faunas are not discussed. Exciting new research on changes of deep-water communities during El Nino evnts, connectivity of benthic communities, temporal succession dynamics, complexity and diversity of bacteria, fungal, and viral communities is also absent. My second issue is that the color plates included as a separate section are poorly designed. The images are stunning but suffer from a lack of coherent unity or proximity that becomes distracting.

Criticism aside the The Silent Deep should prove an enjoyable read for both novices and scientists. Koslow’s novel perspective on field is a welcome, and inexpensive (Amazon: $26.60) addition to my bookshelf.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.