Friday, September 16, 2011

The Secret Sex Lives of Animals by David Lambert and the Diagram Group

Most people are well acquainted with human breeding and sex lives, but the sex lives and practices of animals are often not only stranger than we can imagine, but so strange that they inspire disbelief. Snails that fence with their penises? Octopi whose penises break off inside the female and fertilize her eggs for fifteen years? Yes. All that and more.

This book collects true stories of animal copulation and fertilization, from female fish that turn male if the male who mates with them dies (wrasse), to animals whose males actually become part of the female after they bite her (angler fish). There are birds with penises longer than they are (Argentine Lake Duck) and those that mate in midair (Chimmney Swifts), and there are deer that even masturbate by rubbng their velvet-covered antlers through the grass (Male red deer) and there are animals that will even attempt to mate with just sbout anything, including swimming humans (Dolphins). While others can die just from the size of the young they produce, like the Kiwi females, who can die trying to pass their own eggs, which are 1/4 the size they are!

Other animals remain stuck together after mating, like pigs and dogs, while other species of animals have the males looking after the children after they are born (Seahorses, Japanese Cardinal fish, Darwin Frogs), while Surinam Toads and Midwife toads are carried around as eggs by their fathers. Other species, like manatees and seals, have sexual dimorphism- their males are much larger than the female of the species. In other species, like certain Octopi and angler fish, it is the female that is larger.

This book cobbles together just some of the amazing facts about the animals of the animal kingdom. No type of animal is overlooked, not even viruses and how they reproduce by taking over the reproduction abilities of the cell and producing so many copies of themselves that the cell literally explodes, freeing the now numerous viruses, which are free to do the same to another cell.

This book is fully illustrated with pictures of the different animals and the facts about them, from snails "penis fencing" to snails copulating on a long string of slime while hanging from a branch. These pictures are never lurid, but also must be seen to be believed.

Bright and colorful, and not very large, this book delights and informs as you read it. With an abundance of amazing facts and stories, this book is just right for when you want to do a little light reading. Recommended.

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