Chapter 2. Sealife

Conus textile

You wouldn’t think, holding this small smooth conical shell, it was made by a predatory and venomous snail. The snail’s proboscis held a tiny needle to inject a deadly toxin.


This beautifully branched coral is only the skeleton of a dead coral colony. To fully appreciate it, imagine underwater, in the dappled light, near seaweed undulating, each pore a live animal with tentacles waving.


The taxidermist did a fine job with this lovely animal. Feel its thick, fine fur. It was once smart and playful. It’s a shame to have stuffed and mounted it since in many ways it’s just like us.


You might have eaten them in Shanghai or Hong Kong. In traditional Chinese medicine it’s a cure for impotence. The male seahorse has a pouch in which he incubates the female’s eggs.

Narwhal tusk

If I were to mount this helical tusk on the forehead of a white horse, what would that remind you of? In reality, it was a tooth that protruded from the left lip of a male narwhal. But why wouldn’t it still be a symbol of purity and grace, or its remnant, such as it is?


In this jar of formaldehyde is an Atlantic pigmy octopus, five and a half inches fully grown. Octopus means eight-footed, although we call these arms, each with many suckers. Octopuses have three hearts, whereas we have only one and we put octopuses in jars.