Synopses & Reviews
"If you want to find out why adult male elephant seals can weigh more than four times as much as an adult female, whereas female blanket octopuses are truly enormous compared to their tiny male partners, this fascinating book is for you. Daphne Fairbairn not only introduces us to some exceptional animals but she also provides evolutionary explanations for why males are much larger (or much smaller) than females of their species. A great topic and a great read for layperson and biologist alike."--John Alcock, author of Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach
"Odd couples indeed! Fairbairn takes us on a journey through oceans, grasslands, beaches, and backyards, plunging us into the worlds of nature's most weird and wonderful creatures, all to answer one question: why are males and females different? By tackling extremes--such as male octopuses forty thousand times lighter than their mates, and parasitic male seadevils who fuse themselves to the bellies of females--she deftly illustrates how a common set of concepts can connect them all. A thoroughly enjoyable read."--Doug Emlen, coauthor of Evolution: Making Sense of Life
"A fascinating natural history account of some extreme and unfamiliar examples of sexual differences among animals. A real eye-opener."--Mark Elgar, University of Melbourne
"This unique, ambitious, and engaging book educates general readers about animal behavior, physiology, life history, and evolution using sex differences as its theme. Quite an achievement and a pleasure to read."--Allen J. Moore, University of Georgia
"Balancing descriptive natural history with probing evolutionary biology, Fairbairn (Sex, Size & Gender Roles, coeditor), professor of biology at the University of California Riverside, examines eight striking cases of extreme size differences between males and females of the same species. Her goal is to explore 'why sexual differences are such a pervasive and significant part of the fabric of animal variation,' and her case studies run the gamut from enormous elephant seals to birds, fish, spiders, octopi, and tiny barnacles. With male southern elephant seals growing to eight times the size of females, these animals present the largest discrepancy in size among mammals. But their differences are proportionally miniscule compared to those of deep-ocean seadevil fish: females can weigh over 500,000 times more than their male counterparts. Fairbairn also discusses sometimes bizarre relationships between sexes, as when females choose from a selection of displaying males, males become little more than testes attached to females, and males die immediately upon inseminating a female in a single act of sexual congress. The conclusion she draws from this amazing diversity is as profound as it is simple: 'there is no Ã¢Â€Â˜normal' or Ã¢Â€Â˜typical' pattern of sexual differentiation across the animal kingdom.' 34 illus., 7 tables, & glossary." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
While we joke that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our gender differences can't compare to those of many other animals. For instance, the male garden spider spontaneously dies after mating with a female more than fifty times his size. And male blanket octopuses employ a copulatory arm longer than their own bodies to mate with females that outweigh them by four orders of magnitude. Why do these gender gulfs exist?
Introducing readers to important discoveries in animal behavior and evolution, Odd Couples explores some of the most extraordinary sexual differences in the animal world. Daphne Fairbairn uncovers the unique and bizarre characteristics of these remarkable species and the special strategies they use to maximize reproductive success. Fairbairn also considers humans and explains that although we are keenly aware of our own sexual differences, they are unexceptional within the vast animal world.
Looking at some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, Odd Couples sheds astonishing light on what it means to be male or female in the animal kingdom.
About the Author
Daphne J. Fairbairn is professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside. She has written widely on the science of sexual differences.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: The Roots of Sexual Differences: Why Male and Female Animals Differ 9
Chapter 3: Elephant Seals: Harems, Hierarchies, and Giant Males 23
Chapter 4: Great Bustards: Gorgeous Males and Choosy Females 46
Chapter 5: Shell-Carrying Cichlids: Protective Males and Furtive Females 64
Chapter 6: Yellow Garden Spiders: Sedentary Females and Roving Males 81
Chapter 7: Blanket Octopuses: Drifting Females and Dwarf Males 104
Chapter 8: Giant Seadevils: Fearsome Females and Parasitic Males 116
Chapter 9: Bone-Eating Worms: Female Tubeworms with Harems of Minuscule Males 133
Chapter 10: Shell-Burrowing Barnacles: Sac-Like Females with Harems of Phallic Males 147
Chapter 11: The Diversity of Sexual Differences: Differences between Males and Females across the Animal Kingdom 160
Chapter 12: Concluding Remarks 187
Appendix A: Scientific Names Corresponding to Common Names Used in the Text 197
Appendix B: Summary of Sexual Dimorphisms by Animal Phylum 203
Glossary of Technical Terms 239
Illustration Credits 287