Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom

Author(s): Daphne J. Fairbairn


While we joke that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our gender differences can't compare to those of other animals. For instance: the male garden spider spontaneously dies after mating with a female more than fifty times his size. Female cichlids must guard their eggs and larvae--even from the hungry appetites of their own partners. And male blanket octopuses employ a copulatory arm longer than their own bodies to mate with females that outweigh them by four orders of magnitude. Why do these gender gulfs exist? Introducing readers to important discoveries in animal behavior and evolution, Odd Couples explores some of the most extraordinary sexual differences in the animal world. From the fields of Spain to the deep oceans, evolutionary biologist Daphne Fairbairn uncovers the unique and bizarre characteristics--in size, behavior, ecology, and life history--that exist in these remarkable species and the special strategies they use to maximize reproductive success. Fairbairn describes how male great bustards aggressively compete to display their gorgeous plumage and large physiques to watching, choosey females. She investigates why female elephant seals voluntarily live in harems where they are harassed constantly by eager males. And she reveals why dwarf male giant seadevils parasitically fuse to their giant female partners for life. Fairbairn also considers humans and explains that although we are keenly aware of our own sexual differences, they are unexceptional within the vast animal world. Looking at some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, Odd Couples sheds astonishing light on what it means to be male or female in the animal kingdom.

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Daphne J. Fairbairn is professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside. She has written widely on the science of sexual differences and is the coeditor of "Sex, Size, and Gender Roles".

Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: The Roots of Sexual Differences: Why Male and Female Animals Differ 9 Chapter 3: Elephant Seals: Harems, Hierarchies, and Giant Males 23 Chapter 4: Great Bustards: Gorgeous Males and Choosy Females 46 Chapter 5: Shell-Carrying Cichlids: Protective Males and Furtive Females 64 Chapter 6: Yellow Garden Spiders: Sedentary Females and Roving Males 81 Chapter 7: Blanket Octopuses: Drifting Females and Dwarf Males 104 Chapter 8: Giant Seadevils: Fearsome Females and Parasitic Males 116 Chapter 9: Bone-Eating Worms: Female Tubeworms with Harems of Minuscule Males 133 Chapter 10: Shell-Burrowing Barnacles: Sac-Like Females with Harems of Phallic Males 147 Chapter 11: The Diversity of Sexual Differences: Differences between Males and Females across the Animal Kingdom 160 Chapter 12: Concluding Remarks 187 Acknowledgments 195 Appendix A: Scientific Names Corresponding to Common Names Used in the Text 197 Appendix B: Summary of Sexual Dimorphisms by Animal Phylum 203 Notes 207 Glossary of Technical Terms 239 Sources 247 Illustration Credits 287 Index 289

General Fields

  • : 9780691141961
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : March 2013
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : United States
  • : March 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Daphne J. Fairbairn
  • : Hardback
  • : 591.46
  • : 312
  • : 17 color illus. 5 halftones. 12 line illus. 7 tables.