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Odd Couples

Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom

Daphne J. Fairbairn

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While we joke that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our gender differences can't compare to those of other animals. For instance: the male garden spider spontaneously dies after mating with a female more than fifty times his size. Female cichlids must guard their eggs and larvae--even from the hungry appetites of their own partners. 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. From the fields of Spain to the deep oceans, evolutionary biologist Daphne Fairbairn uncovers the unique and bizarre characteristics--in size, behavior, ecology, and life history--that exist in these remarkable species and the special strategies they use to maximize reproductive success. Fairbairn describes how male great bustards aggressively compete to display their gorgeous plumage and large physiques to watching, choosey females. She investigates why female elephant seals voluntarily live in harems where they are harassed constantly by eager males. And she reveals why dwarf male giant seadevils parasitically fuse to their giant female partners for life. 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.

Publishers Weekly Review

Mar 25, 2013 – 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 ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ pattern of sexual differentiation across the animal kingdom.” 34 illus., 7 tables, & glossary.
Odd Couples
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  • $19.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: Apr 28, 2013
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 312 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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