287 pages, 8 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; b/w illustrations
The story behind the stunning, extreme morphological weapons we see in the animal world – teeth and horns and claws – and what they can tell us about the way humans develop and use arms and other weapons
In Animal Weapons, Doug Emlen takes us outside the lab and deep into the forests and jungles where he's been studying animal weapons in nature for years, to explain the processes behind the most intriguing and curious examples of extreme animal weapons – fish with mouths larger than their bodies and bugs whose heads are so packed with muscle they don't have room for eyes. As singular and strange as some of the weapons we encounter on these pages are, we learn that similar factors set their evolution in motion. Emlen uses these patterns to draw parallels to the way we humans develop and employ our own weapons, and have since battle began. He looks at everything from our armor and camouflage to the evolution of the rifle and the structures human populations have built across different regions and eras to protect their homes and communities. With stunning black and white drawings and gorgeous color illustrations of these concepts at work, Animal Weapons brings us the complete story of how weapons reach their most outsized, dramatic potential, and what the results we witness in the animal world can tell us about our own relationship with weapons of all kinds.
"Emlen's excellent writing will draw in readers intrigued by astonishingly powerful weapons, both in the wild and in the military, and how they have evolved owing to selective pressures."
– Library Journal (starred)
"Absorbing [...] Throughout the book, Emlen's demonstrations of the many parallels between human and animal weapons are fascinating, even when the possibilities are frightening [...] Emlen is not a hurried or simplistic storyteller. He is a writer of nuance, and he traveled to many different environments to get the story."
"Emlen infuses scientific explanations with entertaining anecdotes from his field research at the University of Montana. Each step of the way, he provides parallels with human weapon development and design, from ancient civilizations to weapons of mass destruction, and the evolutionary process of animals. While his conclusions about the human arms race are dire, it is his description of animal weaponry in action and in evolution that will captivate."
– Publishers Weekly
"A great deal of the living world really is red in tooth and claw. That important principle has needed a real biologist to illustrate and explain it, now accomplished dramatically by Emlen's Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle."
– Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist, Harvard University
"One of our leading evolutionary biologists, Doug Emlen, delves into the deep meaning of entities as different as beetle horns and medieval castles, to take the reader on a joyous ride of discovery about nature and the human experience. Animal Weapons is an authoritative, knowledgeable, and epic narrative of one of the dominant themes of life on earth, including our own. Emlen's curiosity, passion, and storytelling prowess make this magisterial little volume leap from the page."
– Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
"This is a great read not only for the stories of conflicts and weaponry in a diversity of animals, but also for the history of human weaponry, and the highly relevant message about arms races the author reads from both."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World and Why We Run
"Animal Weapons is must read, especially those of us who are interested and concerned about human weapons development. As Douglas Emlen shows definitively, arms races are not something we as a species invented, but instead the most natural thing in the world."
– Robert L. O'Connell, author of The Ghosts of Cannae and Fierce Patriot
"Doug Emlen has done a superb job of bringing together the stories of animal and human weapons. He makes the biology behind the evolution of weapons understandable for this soldier and engineer, and convincingly illustrates the human animal's problems in controlling or avoiding catastrophe in the age of weapons of mass destruction."
– Lieutenant General John Myers
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Douglas J. Emlen is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, multiple research awards from the National Science Foundation, including their five-year CAREER award, and a Young Investigator Prize and the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists. His research has been featured in outlets including the New York Times and National Public Radio's Fresh Air. He is a professor at the University of Montana.
David J. Tuss is a graphic artist who specializes in blending technical accuracy with vivid, lifelike compositions. His work is also featured in textbooks, scientific articles, and technical biology papers. He lives in Helena, Montana, where he works as a wilderness ranger, natural science illustrator, and public school science and art teacher.