Evolution

Red Queen by Matt Ridley

Sex and genetics are intimately intertwined for all life on earth. There are many mysteries here, however. Why two genders? Why not one (asexual reproduction) or three or ten? The book does look at examples of single-gender creatures as well as multi-gender creatures (including one that has up to 13 genders). It explores the evolution and purpose of sexiness, the quirks of mating rituals, monogamy vs. polyamory, and how all this ties together with the genetics and biology of each species examined. Just a few of many points touched on: the ratio of breasts to waist to hips of human females; the connection between male accumulation of power and mating potential; the evolutionary propensity of some species (including humans) to cheat on their life partners; and the reason why adult humans look more like baby chimps than adult chimps.

Novelty bonus points for discussing matters such as the relative size of a gorilla's testicles compared to other primates with a completely straight face. Hard science it may be, but if you're squemish about the mechanics of sex you'll have a hard time here.

Rating: 4 of 5
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