Sunday, April 29, 2018

Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life by Oné R. Pagán

I applied for this book because there was a mantis shrimp on the cover. If you don't know about the mantis shrimp, I suggest you watch zefrank1's YouTube video, "True Facts About The Mantis Shrimp" or refer to The Oatmeal's webcomic, "Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal." This animal was making headlines a couple years ago, so I'm not surprised that it was chosen as the posterchild for a book about bad-ass science, even though its presence in the book is really more of a footnote.

Deceptive advertising and coolness of mantis shrimps aside, STRANGE SURVIVORS is a pretty fun book about science and a worthy addition to my bill-nye-the-science-guy shelf on Goodreads. Oné R. Pagán is passionate about evolutionary biology and his excitement cannot even be contained within the text itself, meandering outside the margins into footnotes that sometimes extend over multiple pages to cover asides that he is just dying to share with you, because they are so cool.

STRANGE SURVIVORS is still very science heavy, and while enjoyable, I do think it would be difficult for readers who are not familiar with biology. I found it difficult at times, but I'm a huge fan of trivia and enjoyed learning random facts like how part of the reason fugu aficionados love fugu is because of the way that the poison in the fish makes their lips tingle. Or that dolphins have been known to pass a blowfish around like a bunch of teens passing around a blunt because it gets them high. Or that the difference between venom and poison is that venom is active while poison is passive. Or that there are toxic birds who carry the same poison as the poison dart frogs.

Obviously the poison part of the book was my favorite, hence why all my trivia of interest comes from that section, but there's other parts of the book that cover everything from unusual senses to defense mechanisms to hunting and even slime molds and slime bacteria (note; not the same) and eusocial organisms like the naked mole and, of course, ants.

If you like learning about animals and are passionate about science, this is a great book to add to your collection. Also, check out zefrank1. He's the chief of research and development for BuzzFeed, but for a while, bizarre and NSFW animal trivia was his pet project on YouTube. I imagine he got too busy to keep up with it, which makes me sad, as all of his videos are hilarious (and informative).

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3 out of 5 stars

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