From the familiar to the improbable, the gross to the endearing, The Modern Bestiary is a compendium of curious creatures. It includes both animals that have made headlines and those you've probably never heard of, such as skin-eating caecilians, harp sponges, or zombie worms – also known as bone-eating snot flowers.
Arranged by elements (Earth, Water, Air), The Modern Bestiary contains well-known species told from new, unexpected angles (rats that drive cars; fish that communicate by passing wind), as well as stranger and lesser-known creatures, including carnivorous mice that howl at the moon, cross-dressing cuttlefish, and antechinuses – small marsupials that literally mate themselves to death. Finally, there are the 'aliens on Earth' – the incredible, the surreal, the magical – such as tardigrades, tongue-eating lice and immortal jellyfish, creatures so astonishing that they make unicorns look rather commonplace. Written by a zoologist with a flair for storytelling, this is a fascinating celebration of the animal kingdom.
Dr Joanna Bagniewska is a zoologist and science communicator. She completed her undergraduate degree at Jacobs University Bremen and Rice University in Houston and obtained her MSc and doctorate from the University of Oxford's zoology department. After a stint at a start-up company, where she trained bees to detect illegal substances, Joanna went on to lecture at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Reading. Her academic interests include conservation biology, behavioural ecology and the intersection of technology and zoology. Joanna has worked on a range of species, ranging from wombats and wallabies to mole-rats and jackals. She currently splits her time between two roles: senior lecturer in environmental sciences at Brunel University London, and communications and public engagement officer at the University of Oxford's Department of Paediatrics. This is her first book.
"Everyone who loves wildlife – especially fantastically weird and cringingly gross wildlife – should read this masterful book."
– Mark Carwardine, author/presenter of Last Chance to See
"Even after half a century – and counting – as a professional zoologist, I encountered new and intriguing facts on every page, all conveyed in an easy, friendly style. If ever there was a book that highlighted the bewildering wonders of the natural world, and the need for their conservation, this is it."
– Michael Brooke, author of Far from Land
"If you love animals, especially ones with unsavoury habits, this book is for you. Entries are crafted with affection, cast-iron scholarship and an unyielding dedication to exposing as much hilarious weirdness as the animal kingdom can offer. And that, it appears, is rather a lot. This is a book to adore."
– Tom Moorhouse, author of Elegy for a River
"This modern bestiary is a magnificent miscellany that will amuse and amaze. From butterflies that make crocodiles cry and penis-fencing slugs to fish that live inside sea cucumbers' bottoms – the natural world is stranger than you could ever imagine."
– George McGavin, entomologist, author and TV presenter
"The Modern Bestiary provides a fascinating, accessible and humorous insight into the wonders of the natural world. Packed with incredible facts and jaw-dropping insights into wildlife ecology, anatomy and behaviour, it is a genuine delight."
– Amy Dickman, director of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit
"Just when you thought the natural world couldn't get any more bizarre, you turn the page and learn about a small marsupial that mates itself to death. There's plenty inside this beautifully written book to make you laugh, squirm and – perhaps most importantly – appreciate how lucky we are to not have to live inside an anus."
– Yussef Rafik, zoologist and wildlife TV presenter
"An illuminating compendium of some weird and wonderful creatures."