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How seashells shaped the world — and predict our future


Vox's Benji Jones talks with author and environmental journalist Cynthia Barnett about seashells and her new book, The Sound of the Sea. They discuss the evolutionary function and human appeal of seashells, the surprising role shells played in ancient trade and commerce, and how climate change threatens the creatures that call them home.

Host: Benji Jones (@BenjiSJones), Environmental reporter, Vox

Guest: Cynthia Barnett (@cynthiabarnett), author

References: 

  • “Seashells changed the world. Now they’re teaching us about the future of the oceans” by Benji Jones (Vox; Jul. 10)
  • The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by Cynthia Barnett (W.W. Norton; 2021)
  • The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum (Sanibel Island, FL)
  • Evolution & Escalation: An Ecological History of Life by Geerat J. Vermeij (Princeton; 1993)
  • Cowrie Shells and Cowrie Money: A Global History by Bin Yang (Routledge; 2020)
  • Scallops in motion (YouTube)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • VP, Vox Audio: Liz Kelly Nelson

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 2021-08-19  58m