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Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691141961
ISBN-10: 0691141967
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Editorial Reviews


One of American Association for the Advancement of Science's Books for General Audiences and Young Adults 2014

"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. . . . The conclusion she draws from this amazing diversity is as profound as it is simple: 'there is no "normal" or "typical" pattern of sexual differentiation across the animal kingdom.' "--Publishers Weekly

"I found reading the book like taking a holiday in a foreign land with an enthusiastic and expert guide. You will come back with good stories, and a new appreciation of the amazing diversity of life on Earth and the forces shaping it."--Suzanne Alonzo, Nature

"I understand much more about these creatures now that I've read this lively new book. . . . [L]ike all of the examples in this fine book, it's far from a traditional marriage."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"Such insights into the lives of animals are what makes Odd Couples so enjoyable, and Fairbairn always takes an evolutionist-eye view to try to understand them."--Kate Douglas, New Scientist

"When we discuss gender roles, we tend to think only of a narrow range of species conforming to our preconceptions about dominant men and domestic women. Fairbairn explodes these preconceptions. . . . [F]ascinating reading."--Danielle Clode, Australian

"The author has thought deeply about this topic and writes clearly about the many influences and consequences of sexual and natural selection and how they impinge upon reproductive fitness for different animal lineages. An utterly fascinating book that will change how you think about sexual differences."--GrrlScientist

"Recommended."--Library Journal

"[A]n amazing story. . . . [A]n easy and enjoyable read. . . . It is ambitious, it is an excellent natural history chronicle and it is a nice encyclopedia of sexual differences. Overall, a good one for the library."--D. J. Hosken, Current Biology

"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."--Northeastern and Southeastern Naturalist

"[T]his accessible volume is well organized, and its impressive helpings of technical details never impede readability."--Adrian Barnett, BBC Wildlife Magazine

"In observing the differences between genders, Darwin proposed both individual and natural selection. In this well-written, fascinating volume, Fairbairn explores how the two kinds of selection work to produce the 'odd couples' of the title. . . . [Odd Couples] should appeal to lay and professional readers alike."--Choice

"Odd Couples is a very informative and enjoyable book for anyone interested in animal life history. . . . I can recommend it for any interested naturalist whether professional or nonprofessional."--Roger D. Applegate, Canadian Field Naturalist

"Be prepared to be entertained and fascinated by this stimulating and provocative book. It is certain to spark your curiosity. Fairbairn lakes us on a romp through the animal kingdom. . . . This book provides ample incentive for continued investigations."--Ann Hedrick, Ecology

"Odd Couples present[s] a fun and enlightening plunge into the natural history of some very exceptional animals, along with an authoritative and accessible summary of current evolutionary theory on sex differences."--Robert Cox, Reports of the National Center for Science Education

"Daphne Fairbairn has written an engaging and fascinating book. . . . The well-written text flows nicely. Lay readers will enjoy natural history descriptions; discussions of fitness and Darwinian selection will . . . appeal to professional biologists for whom this book is an excellent model of clear scientific writing."--AAAS

From the Back Cover

"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


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691141967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691141961
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #934,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ionia Martin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Evolutionary biology has always piqued my interest. The differences between the male and female counterparts of various species sounded like an interesting subject matter for a book. It turned out, not only was it interesting, but this book is brilliant. It far surpassed my expectations.

At first I was a little surprised that the speech the author chose to use was not more technical. She describes in a subsequent passage that she wanted her book to be accessible to everyone, from colleagues to those with a common curiosity on the subject. This impressed me greatly. While I appreciate authors with more than just a working knowledge of their subject matter, sometimes "experts" in their field can get a bit carried away with the proper scientific terms in their work and lose the reader's interest. This book never does that. Whether you are a biology major or not, you won't struggle to enjoy this book.

The author takes a gentle approach to breaking down the information in a way that is not only easy to understand, but also a lot of fun. Through the recounting of her own experiences with the species she has chosen to include in this work, we get more than a basic idea of the differences between the male and females in each species. She also chose to vary her subjects including both land, air and aquatic animals.

This book is written in a laid-back conversational tone that made it fun to read. The author's observations are fascinating and offer the reader a wonderful base of information that they can then choose to study further and increase their knowledge from.

I was particularly interested in the sections of the book that covered sexual dichotomy and the differences in how species reproduce in such a vast array of ways.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book definitely leans academic but it is also kind of fun reading about some of the largest male-female differences in the animal "kingdom." On the good side, academic means accurate (but it also means a little dry here and there). Still, the book is well done because the intelligent/educated but still unsophisticated reader in this topic area doesn't get lost in terminology. The National Center for Science Education book review said the science was sound, evolutionarily speaking, so that made this book worth a try all the more. In this regard, it is interesting to find "legitimate" efforts to study and reason about how evolution might have occurred (now that even the rationale for giraffes' long necks has been faulted), how/why evolution drove these species to these particular (and unusual) results.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ann Hedrick on August 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinarily entertaining and fascinating book. The author takes us on a romp through the animal kingdom to explain why the sexes differ. I loved it.
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