Saturday, September 02, 2017

How the other animals live

     Pat Senson. Nasty, Brutish and Short (2010) A compilation of oddball facts about animals as recounted on Quirks and Quarks, CBC radio’s science news show. It demonstrates that no matter how sure we are that we know what’s natural and what isn’t, Nature has a habit of confounding our prejudices. What’s refreshing, compared to TV, is the willingness to admit that just why animals do some of the weird things they do isn’t understood. There are a few attempts at just-so stories, mostly in terms of probable odds of survival, but without more data, most of these remain merely interesting speculation.
     I learned a lot, but very little of it has stuck. A random dive into the book reveals that alligators can move their internal airbag around, which shifts the centre of gravity, and so enables silent, almost ripple-free diving and surfacing. Which is why alligators are more dangerous than crocodiles, who have to use their feet and tails to do that, and so tend to announce their presence in the water. Or maybe alligators’ sneakiness just makes them seem more dangerous.
     A nice potato chip book which should please anybody who wants to know weird stuff about critters. Senson finishes off every mini-essay with a lame joke, which I found somewhat irritating, and costs the book ½ a star. You can find Quirks abnd Quarks podcasts here.**½

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