You Can’t Mate with Heavy Artillery

Doug Brown in Powells Book Review:

ImageDB Several years ago Lloyd and Mitchinson entertained readers with The Book of General Ignorance. Now they are back with this fun overview of the animal world. Unlike many factoid-ish general overviews, The Book of Animal Ignorance isn't dumbed down for beginners. Scientific names are almost always given in addition to common names, and interesting etymologies are commonly provided. I have a master's degree in zoology, and I learned quite a few new things.

The book is laid out as an alphabetic bestiary, from aardvarks to worms. Each critter gets a couple of pages, allowing more than just a cursory glance. Lloyd and Mitchinson have good eyes for entertaining tidbits and present them with dry British humor. For instance, we learn that Adelie penguins excrete with a rectal pressure about four times that of humans, or looked at another way, “the same as a keg of lager.” We also learn that a quarter pound of bat guano “contains more proteins and minerals than a Big Mac.” One of my favorite bits of wry humor, from the cat entry:

Right up until the seventeenth century it amused people to stuff wicker effigies of the pope with live cats and then burn the lot. This produced sound effects that pleased Puritans but not cats; they have exceptionally sensitive hearing and can even hear bats.

Or this one about cicadas:

The nineteenth–century French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre tried to demonstrate that cicadas were deaf by firing a cannon toward a tree full of them. The songs didn't change, but not because they were deaf. The sound of the cannon was meaningless to them: you can't mate with heavy artillery.

More here.