Marty Crump – Headless Males Make Great Lovers
Length: 216 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Science
Started: 24 June 2011
Finished: 23 July 2011
Where did it come from? Purchased from the publisher.
Why do I have it? I really enjoyed Crump’s memoir In Search of the Golden Frog, plus I’m a sucker for a good pop-sci book, and it looked like fun.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 August 2008.
If slugs were writing
books, our mating behavior
would seem weird to them.
Summary: In Headless Males Make Great Lovers, Marty Crump sets out to give her readers a peek into the crazy world of natural history – that is, the study of how animals live their lives. She breaks it down into five broad categories: mating behavior, parental behavior, predation, protection, and communication, and covers such examples as male salamanders using fang-like protrusions on their jaw to directly inject pheromones into the female to make her receptive to mating; frogs that store their eggs in their vocal sacs and then belch up their tadpoles once they’ve hatched; and deep-sea anglerfish where a male will bite on to a much larger female, and hang on until she’s ready to lay her eggs… which may take months.
Review: I’ve been a sucker for natural history factoids ever since my parents first got me my first subscription to Zoobooks; the stuff that some animal species do in the daily course of living is so crazy, so bizzare, and so completely foreign to our own experience that it tops the strangest things a sci-fi novelist could hope to dream up. So, despite the fact that I already knew about a lot of what Crump was writing about (and in fact was spotting places where I thought she missed an opportunity to introduce some neat relevant trivia tidbits), this book was still like candy to me. And personally, one of the best parts was that Crump actually presented some examples that I hadn’t heard of, and I learned some things I didn’t know before – like the fact that baby kangaroos spend their first four months continuously attached to a nipple in their mom’s pouch, or that rattlesnakes can shed and re-grow their fangs, or that dung beetles in India bury 50,000 tons of human waste per day! So cool!
While this book is definitely aimed at people who agree with me that that sort of thing is cool, not gross (well, okay, kind of gross), it’s not geared exclusively towards scientists. Crump is very good at keeping her science accessible to the layperson without talking down to her readers or sacrificing accuracy, and the prose is bright and clean and easy to read. I realize it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the fact that I had a fun time reading it, even when I already knew about the salamanders or the fish or whatever, speaks pretty highly in its favor. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Not exclusive to scientists, I think this would be fun for anyone with more than a passing interest in natural history: zoo- and museum-goers, Discovery Channel watchers, National Geographic subscribers, etc.
Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Zoologists are a curious lot.
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