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 a 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.
Nearly 50 years ago, the philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote an influential paper titled 'What Is It Like to Be a Bat?' Although the article’s implications have been much debated, the answer is: We’ll probably never know. Kenneth Catania, professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, probably doesn’t know either, but his book Great Adaptations gives us the next best thing: a view into the lives of many strange and wonderful critters, whose windows to the world are no less remarkable than the sonar used by many species of bats to catch flying insects and avoid obstacles ... From its first sentences, Great Adaptations grabs the reader ... The irresistible enthusiasm of Great Adaptations couldn’t come at a better time ... as Mr. Catania clearly understands, and demonstrates beautifully in his book, science offers adventures in trying to decode the mysteries of the natural world.
Using a variety of visual aids to good effect, Catania explores how the humblest species may have developed their remarkable abilities. The author wants us to learn something not only about these extraordinary creatures, but about the process of discovery as well ... 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.
By blending accessible writing with cutting-edge science, Catania, professor of neuroscience at Vanderbilt University and a MacArthur Fellowship winner, demonstrates how exciting the process of scientific investigation can be in his invigorating debut ... Throughout, Catania introduces neuroscience basics in an accessible manner, while also making clear what a large role serendipity can play in scientific investigation. The joy Catania takes in the process of exploring the natural world will delight readers.