From star-nosed moles that have super-sensing snouts to electric eels that paralyze their prey, animals possess unique and extraordinary abilities. In Great Adaptations, Kenneth Catania presents an entertaining and engaging look at some of nature's most remarkable creatures. Telling the story of his biological detective work, Catania sheds light on the mysteries behind the behaviours of tentacled snakes, tiny shrews, zombie-making wasps, and more. He not only shows how studying these animals provide deep insights into how life evolved, but also how scientific discovery can be filled with adventure and fun.
Beginning with the star-nosed mole, Catania reveals what the creature's nasal star is actually for, and what this tells us about how brains work. He explores how the deceptive hunting strategy of tentacled snakes leads prey straight to their mouths, how eels use electricity to control other animals, and why emerald jewel wasps make zombies out of cockroaches. He also solves the enigma of worm grunting by teaming up with professional worm grunters. Catania demonstrates the merits of approaching science with an open mind, considers the role played by citizen scientists, and illustrates that most animals have incredible, hidden abilities that defy our imagination.
Examining some strange and spectacular creatures, Great Adaptations offers a wondrous journey into nature's grand designs.
Kenneth Catania is the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. A 2006 MacArthur Fellow, Catania lives in Nashville.
"Through a series of gripping vignettes about incredible animals doing seemingly impossible things, Great Adaptations melds insightful natural history with sophisticated experimental analysis, garnished with scientific brilliance. It is among the best natural history accounts our generation has to offer."
– Michael J. Ryan, author of A Taste for the Beautiful
"From star-nosed moles to worm grunting, this book captivates readers with stories about the extraordinary abilities of ordinary creatures."
– Marlene Zuk, author of Paleofantasy