Headless Males Make Great Lovers
And Other Unusual Natural Histories
Headless Males Make Great Lovers and Other Unusual Natural Histories celebrates the extraordinary world of animals with essays on curious creatures and their amazing behaviors. In five thematic chapters, Marty Crump—a tropical field biologist well known for her work with the reproductive behavior of amphibians—examines the bizarre conduct of animals as they mate, parent, feed, defend themselves, and communicate. Crump's enthusiasm for the unusual behaviors she describes-from sex change and free love in sponges to aphrodisiac concoctions in bats-is visible on every page, thanks to her skilled storytelling, which makes even sea slugs, dung beetles, ticks, and tapeworms fascinating and appealing. Steeped in biology, Headless Males Make Great Lovers points out that diverse and unrelated animals often share seemingly bizarre behaviors—evidence, Crump argues, that these natural histories, though outwardly weird, are successful ways of living.
Illustrated throughout, and filled with vignettes of personal and scientific interest, Headless Males Make Great Lovers will enchant the general reader with its tales of blood-squirting horned lizards and intestine-ejecting sea cucumbers—all in the service of a greater appreciation of the diversity of the natural histories of animals.
“Zoologists collect nature stories. We pull them out like worn bandannas at field-site campfires and conference socials, keeping lecture-hall sleepers awake. We hone our favorites to their finest edge and listen to those told by the masters, hoping to learn something new. Now there is an entire book of such inspiration in Marty Crump’s Headless Males Make Great Lovers. With short, descriptive sentences, Crump paints an impressionistic portrait of five fundamental aspects of animal existence: mating, parenting, feeding, self-defense, and communication. Stepping easily between her subjects as if they were golden frogs, Crump weaves together natural history, poetry, mythology, family memories, and good humor with appropriate amounts of drama and distance. Each chapter begins with the intriguing, moves to the bizarre, and ends with the most spectacular examples of animal lore, seasoned with experiences from academia, personal friendships, and an elegant grasp of evolutionary and behavioral biology. Regardless of one’s background, there is space at this campfire for all.”
“Marty Crump has an unerring eye for bizarre and perplexing aspects of natural history. She writes with great zest, using her carefully selected examples to show how natural selection has shaped all aspects of animal biology. With great clarity, she explains how even the strangest phenomena conform to the basic, simple laws of nature. This book is a bravura performance, based on a lifetime of careful observation of the earth’s fast-vanishing biodiversity.” —Tim Halliday, coeditor of Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians
“From penis-gnawing slugs to tadpole-transporting frogs, Marty Crump’s Headless Males Make Great Lovers captivates readers with remarkable stories about animals and their bizarre behaviors. With examples ranging from sponges to elephant seals, the book covers all major aspects of animal behavior and will be of interest to scientists and laypersons. I am certain her stories will inspire many to pursue studies of natural history and behavior.”