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Great Adaptations: Book summary and reviews of Great Adaptations by Kenneth Catania

Great Adaptations

Star-Nosed Moles, Electric Eels, and Other Tales of Evolution's Mysteries Solved

by Kenneth Catania

Great Adaptations by Kenneth Catania X
Great Adaptations by Kenneth Catania
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Book Summary

How one scientist unlocked the secrets behind some of nature's most astounding animals.

From star-nosed moles that have super-sensing snouts to electric eels that paralyze their prey, animals possess unique and extraordinary abilities. In Great Adaptations, Kenneth Catania presents an entertaining and engaging look at some of nature's most remarkable creatures. Telling the story of his biological detective work, Catania sheds light on the mysteries behind the behaviors of tentacled snakes, tiny shrews, zombie-making wasps, and more. He shows not only how studying these animals can provide deep insights into how life evolved, but also how scientific discovery can be filled with adventure and fun.

Beginning with the star-nosed mole, Catania reveals what the creature's nasal star is actually for, and what this tells us about how brains work. He explores how the deceptive hunting strategy of tentacled snakes leads prey straight to their mouths, how eels use electricity to control other animals, and why emerald jewel wasps make zombies out of cockroaches. He also solves the enigma of worm grunting―a traditional technique in which earthworms are enticed out of the ground―by teaming up with professional worm grunters. Catania demonstrates the merits of approaching science with an open mind, considers the role played by citizen scientists, and illustrates that most animals have incredible, hidden abilities that defy our imagination.

Examining some strange and spectacular creatures, Great Adaptations offers a wondrous journey into nature's grand designs.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"By blending accessible writing with cutting-edge science, Catania...demonstrates how exciting the process of scientific investigation can be in his invigorating debut...The joy Catania takes in the process of exploring the natural world will delight readers." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Perhaps not everyone will share the author's abundant enthusiasm for the specifics of insectivore senses, amphibian electroreceptors, and the vagaries of neuroanatomy, but his delight is contagious. Catania successfully unearths a universe of surprises within a small-scale realm." - Kirkus Reviews

"With engaging prose and captivating stories, Kenneth Catania brings his brilliant research to life. Never have I learned so much from a book that's so enjoyable to read." - Jonathan Losos, author of Improbable Destinies

"In writing about the astonishing ways that animals live on this planet, Kenneth Catania says he stopped at the word 'miracles.' But in Great Adaptations, what he describes is just that―a planet full of miracles. Catania's personal experiences and journeys make this a compulsively readable book. Be very amazed." - Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words and Becoming Wild

"From star-nosed moles to worm grunting, this book captivates readers with stories about the extraordinary abilities of ordinary creatures." - Marlene Zuk, author of Paleofantasy

"Through a series of gripping vignettes about incredible animals doing seemingly impossible things, Great Adaptations melds insightful natural history with sophisticated experimental analysis, garnished with scientific brilliance. It is among the best natural history accounts our generation has to offer." - Michael J. Ryan, author of A Taste for the Beautiful

This information about Great Adaptations was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Kenneth Catania

Kenneth Catania is the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. A 2006 MacArthur Fellow, Catania lives in Nashville.

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