Sex on Earth

Appropriately though provocatively titled, Sex on Earth: A Celebration of Animal Reproduction is a lighthearted romp through various animals’ intimacies. Author Jules Howard, your friendly neighborhood zoologist, probes, burrows, and excavates to uncover a few of the myriad methods of animal reproduction. Most animals reproduce by sharing genetic material, but the ways this happen are multitudinous and fascinating in their variety.

“A story almost as old as time itself, that goes on all around us, but that’s only now being unlocked. What a place, then, to begin a journey like this.”

Howard visits the stickleback, a common British fish – the male is often lauded for its amazing fathering instincts, but Howard points out the females’ heavily invested selection role as well. Female ducks have evolved long, winding, mazelike reproductive tracts that can stymie the lightning-fast attempts at impregnation by the males. Dragonflies and other insects have such variation in genitalia that species can be defined by it. The author’s particular specialty is frogs, and they are also visited here, as are dinosaurs, horses, dogs, wolves, even hedgehogs and other ordinary, but no less amazing, creatures.

The writing is buoyant and upbeat, with infectious enthusiasm, and delves into important work by various scientists Howard introduces you to, experts in their fields; the author finds himself at the boundaries of known science, as the more he learns the more questions he finds are unanswered. Anyone interested in the natural world will find all this engrossing and fascinating, and often very funny as well. This book has great science, funny writing, a light tone but and important subject – it’s an excellent introduction to the essential role of “Sex on Earth.”