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A fascinating exploration of the extreme world of animal athletics, how these stunning abilities have evolved, and their insights into human performance and evolution
How is it that fish can climb waterfalls, snakes glide, and cheetahs run so fast? Natural and sexual selection has driven the evolution of diverse and stunning athletic abilities throughout the animal kingdom. Drawing on decades of performance research, integrative biologist Simon Lailvaux highlights the ecological and evolutionary importance of these abilities, which include running, jumping, flying, biting, climbing, and swimming, and explains the many reasons they exist. He describes the methods and tools scientists use to measure animal performance – remote sensing technologies that can capture a cheetah's running speed, or force meters that gauge the strength of a lizard's bite or crab's grip – as well as the reasons why they act this way. Using examples from the smallest insects to birds, whales, and even dinosaurs, Lailvaux provides a unique glimpse into a vibrant, eclectic field of research and points to new directions for understanding performance evolution in both animals and humans.
Simon Lailvaux holds the Virginia Kock/Audubon Nature Institute Chair in Species Preservation in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of New Orleans. His research group investigates a wide variety of ecological and evolutionary phenomena related to performance.
"From boxing shrimp to racing cheetahs, Feats of Strength is a fascinating exploration of life in motion – human life included."
– Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex
"Superb – vividly written, clear, fascinating and very funny – one immediately likes the author and enjoys his deep knowledge."
– Robert Trivers, President, Biosocial Research Foundation and Presidential Scholar, Chapman University
"The evolution-based animal olympics have been ongoing for about 800 million years. Simon Lailvaux has written a fascinating, easy-reading, broad introduction for natural history and sports fans to the variety of competitions involved, the diversity of the competitors, and many of the rules of the games."
– Malcolm Gordon, University of California, Los Angeles
"An engaging and evocatively written study of the fantastic abilities that surround us."
– Warren Ellis, author of Normal