Sponges are neglected in popular literature because they don't do anything exciting - but on closer inspection, they are incredibly fascinating. A large sponge filters enough water in a week to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool. They have one of the longest life spans of any organism on Earth. And genetic evidence points to them being, quite literally, the first multi-cellular animals. Add to this their beauty and amazing diversity of form, color and associated organisms, and the lowly sponge suddenly doesn't look so lowly. The book is also timely, given the rapidly expanding pharmacological research on the secondary metabolites of sponges.
The First Animal features a preface by Joseph Pawlik at the University of North Carolina, the leading expert in Giant Barrel sponges. Dr. Pawlik was also kind enough to review the entire manuscript and offer corrections and clarifications where needed. There is also commentary from many well-respected authorities: The director of the world's leading marine park (Bonaire); Dr. Ellen Pager, teacher, author and spokesperson for the oceans; McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands (he owed me a favor for establishing the Cayman Underwater Image Bank for Students and Teachers); Captain Don Stewart, inductee to the Diving Hall of Fame and pioneer in marine environmentalism; and others including some top personalities from the diving industry, professors of photographic arts, and other oceanographers.
The First Animal is about 160 pages with over 200 high-quality photos (many depicting aspects of sponge life never before seen). It is written for laymen and fills an empty niche between lightweight children's books and heavy scholarly treatises for scientists and their students. This is my eighth non-fiction book to be published (I am also a journalist, so I truly know how to work with editors and publishers). The targeted audience includes recreational divers, ocean lovers, beachcombers, photographers, students, artists, and scientists.