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Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves 1st Edition, 1st Printing Edition

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0670785919
ISBN-10: 0670785911
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Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves + Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Schilthuizen whizzes between geographies and species, learning from apes, slugs, spiders. In the process he invites us on all kinds of interesting adventures, from finding ancient beetle genitals trapped in amber to examining barnacles depositing their sperm with eight-foot-long appendages.... This is a book about heterosexual sex between animals, but Schilthuizen hasn't closed the case on other kinds of sex driving animal evolution, too. Ever excited, ever open-minded, he pushes towards new frontiers.”
--Tess Taylor, Barnes and Nobles Review

“From the very first page, Menno Schilthuizen makes us both laugh and think about the bewildering genital variation in the animal kingdom. We laugh at the outrageous shapes these organs take, and think about the central issue of this book: how genital anatomy advances male and female procreation. An exhilarating and most informative read!”
—Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist
 
“A remarkable book... succeeds in finding exactly the right tone…. Schilthuizen’s entertaining work reminds us not to take ‘the mechanics of sexual intercourse’ for granted.'"
Publishers Weekly
 
“A provocative voyage on the ‘vast ocean of sexual function beyond the quiet backwater that we humans find ourselves in.’”
--Kirkus
 
“The science of genitals is a relatively new field for biologists, who have long overlooked the evolutionary importance of species' private parts. Biologist Schilthuizen balances the silly and the serious to describe researchers' latest efforts to understand how ‘evolution has graced the animal kingdom with such a bewildering diversity of reproductive organs.’ Schilthuizen tours some of nature's weirdest inventions, such as the chicken flea penis, which is ‘actually a profusion of plates, combs, springs, and levers’ and looks like ‘an exploded grandfather clock.’”
--Scientific American

“Rather than furiously flipping through a stack of increasingly obscure science journals, those interested now have an easily digestible text to work with, the charmingly titled, Nature’s Nether Regions, by Dutch evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen. Menno’s book is a deep dive into the science of genitals, one that comes interspersed with a selection of the finest, and most scientifically-accurate, sex jokes.”
—Lex Berko, Vice’s Motherboard
 
A closer look between the legs (or, in the case of the Australian velvet worm, on the head) to explore what the sex lives of various creatures can teach us about reproduction, diversity and human sexuality…. I actually missed my stop on the train this morning because I was engrossed in the chapter about duck sex.”
—Lindsay Abrams, Salon

About the Author

Menno Schilthuizen is a research scientist at the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands. He has written on ecology and evolution for Science, Natural History, and other publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (May 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670785911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670785919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Nemati on July 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is about the evolution of genitals and the unanswered questions of sexual selection in general.

I thought that this was a great book for a number of reasons:
~The author's writing style is really entertaining. He makes a lot of references and uses colloquial terms that are familiar to the reader and even sticks in some funny turn of phrases.

~The book has a lot of novel information. The co-evolution of genitalia in the fight for dominance over reproduction is quite entertaining and the 'tricks' and strategies animals use to get the upper hand is surprising at times. I certainly learned a lot.

~Schilthuizen has a lot of drawings to elucidate his writing on specific mating strategies and the odd array of shapes of various genitalia and reproductive tracts of organisms.

I hope for the author's sake that the title of the book doesn't keep the more modest readers from learning about this fascinating topic which is broader than just sex organs. (I do love the cover photo).

I have no real complaints about the book. I suppose sometimes it was difficult to read about the crueler or grosser aspects of nature and the creepy crawlies that dominate our biosphere in many ways. But despite the occasional discomfort in reading the material, if you have an interest in evolution, biology, or ecology it would be a mistake to pass up this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I cannot say the author is wrong, after all I read the book. The language can be a little condescending at times, but it conveys the information in a readable format. The data is well referenced and includes the history of this fascinating field. Most compelling to me is the finding that once again, much less is known about the function and form of female genitalia than of male. The sections on rates of "sperm dumping" alone is well worth reading for some well researched and satisfying information!
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Format: Hardcover
Sex is one of the things we humans find really worth doing, and we will spend money, or throw away marriages, or hazard careers in its pursuit. For all its delights, complicated emotional implications, and astonishing anatomical and physiological details, though, human sex is pretty simple, compared to the examples given in _Nature’s Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us about Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves_ (Viking) by evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen. The author describes his own work with snails that not only have their shells spiraled either clockwise or counterclockwise, but have their penises spiraled in the same direction. That is, however, only a few pages within this diverting book, which intends to popularize genitalia research. We know what _Ulysses_ calls the “energetic piston and cylinder movement” involved in sex for us, but it turns out that that is just our branch of the evolutionary tree. Evolution has been at work on our genitals and those of every other animal, and it has produced some of its finest and most bizarre creations in the very organs that bring forth progeny.

It is only in the past few decades that evolutionary biologists have been looking at genitalia. Darwin, like other Victorian gentlemen, averted curiosity from the region, concentrating on the less naughty “secondary sex characteristics,” like plumage, antlers, and prongs on insects’ heads. Genitals, Darwin thought, were simply functional, accomplishing the job of inserting or accepting sperm for fertilization. It is now known that the wild varieties of genitalia have purposes far more refined than just keeping the wrong species from hooking up. Males, like the damselfly, may have penises that are shaped to expel the sperm of predecessors.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Stahl on September 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Schilthuizen is a researcher and scientist in the field that he wrote about but the book is more of like science journalism. While he mentions his own work in the area of animal mating he more often addresses the many other field workers and their endeavors in non-human mating. This appears to be a fairly large arena for research given the examples and stories that he provides. Included are the intricacies of sexual organs, their role in evolution, mating habits and what we would probably think of as anomalies. There is homosexuality in the animal kingdom. There is rape as well. Some animals have orgasms.

The author depicts a wide variety of animal behavior vis a vis mating in all its wonder (sometimes horror) and he does it with gusto both in language and visuals. I think he had a lot of fun writing a good solid book of popular science. As an adult human male I often read about practices in the non-human world that I would be more than loath to endure but alas I am not a Mallard for instance. Likewise I am not a female of any species and am especially glad to not be one from some of the species that Schilthuizen describes. As the reader finishes the book and maybe glimpses at the photograph of the author on the rear flap they might speculate about the grin on his face.

He begins the book by clarifying the distinction between the primary natural selection benefits of sexual organs. How they work on the practical level to help all species propagate. He is less concerned about how they survive-only how they got here. Secondary variables in maintaining gene flow through heredity of course are the aspects of mate selection. Sexual selection is an important variable in the ability to procreate but it is only marginal to the author’s topic.
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Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves
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