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  • Is Ricketts Still Relevant?
  • Vida C. Kenk (bio)

Edward F. Ricketts has become a legendary figure who continues to be revered by today's marine biologists. Nearly three generations of marine biologists have been trained since the first edition of Ricketts's and Calvin's Between Pacific Tides first appeared in 1939. At the time of that publication, there were only three major institutional marine stations on the west coast of the United States (University of Washington's summer station at Friday Harbor, Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station at Pacific Grove near Ricketts's own headquarters, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla). Today, Monterey Bay alone is ringed with 26 marine research facilities. Is Ricketts still relevant?

Ricketts and Calvin intended their book to be accessible to the general reader. It is organized by habitat, such as protected outer coast, open coast, bay, and estuary. Within these broad categories are more specific categories relating to the substrate, such as rocky shore, sand flats, mud flats, and wharf piling. The book describes intertidal life starting at the shore and moving seaward, the way a person exploring the seacoast would walk. It is liberally illustrated with both photographs and line drawings, inviting easy comparison with specimens observed. The photos were co-author Jack Calvin's major contribution. The illustrations refer to numbered sections of the text in which the organisms are described, usually with information as to feeding, behavior, and life cycle.

Ricketts had a broad holistic viewpoint of the intertidal community. Because intertidal organisms at different vertical [End Page 31] levels are exposed to sun and extreme temperatures for different lengths of time when the tide is out, they are arranged in zones, with the hardiest nearest the shore and the more delicate in lower regions. Between Pacific Tides was the first book for general readers to place intertidal organisms in their zonal distribution.


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Figure 1.

Between Pacific Tides aims to stimulate curiosity rather than to provide pat answers. The reader is invited to observe and participate in discovery. As John Steinbeck says in the preface to the revised 1948 edition: "It says in effect: look at the animals, this is what we seem to know about them but the knowledge is not final, and any clear eye and sharp intelligence may see something we have never seen."

Ricketts included an annotated systematic index in the book. This extensive bibliography brought together scattered literature and organized it by taxonomic groups, no small feat in the nineteen-thirties, long before the convenient Internet searches of today. At first, the editors at Stanford University Press cut out this part of the book, but they were persuaded to include it by the highly respected Professor S.F. Light, who taught marine biology at U.C. Berkeley. (While Ricketts wore casual attire when exploring tidepools, Prof. Light conducted his intertidal field trips wearing a gray business suit, complete with vest and a jaunty fedora, and shod in rubber boots.) [End Page 32]

Between Pacific Tides continues to be a living document, revised four times. Ricketts's holistic viewpoint and spirit of scientific curiosity continue to shine through all the editions. The first revision in 1948, shortly after Ricketts's death, incorporated material from his notes. The next revision in 1952 was by Jack Calvin and Joel Hedgpeth (a noted invertebrate zoologist and ecologist). The 1968 edition by Joel Hedgpeth was an extensive revision that added a section of information about the deep ocean beyond the tides. The 1985 fifth edition, revised by David Phillips, is the one that I use today when I teach an upper division university class in invertebrate zoology.

Invertebrate zoology is the study of animals without backbones, such as jellyfish, worms, insects, crabs, seastars, snails, clams, and octopodes. Invertebrates comprise about 96 percent of the currently described animal species. A standard invertebrate textbook groups these species into more than thirty phyla; in contrast, the 4 percent of animal species that are vertebrates are all members of the same phylum, Chordata. As new books become available, I change which invertebrate textbook I use in addition to Between Pacific Tides, but most all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1551-6903
Print ISSN
0898-7734
Pages
pp. 31-34
Launched on MUSE
2004-12-30
Open Access
No
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