Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers: & Other Unusual Relationships

Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers: & Other Unusual Relationships

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 0226121852

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Vampire bats that regurgitate blood for roosting buddies. Mosquitoes that filch honeydew droplets from ants. Reptiles that enforce chastity on their lovers with copulatory plugs. Capuchin monkeys that use millipede secretions as mosquito repellent. The natural world is full of unusual relationships, and negotiation between life-forms striving to survive is evolution at its most diverse, entertaining, and awe-inspiring. 

Picking up where her highly popular Headless Males Make Great Lovers left off, tropical field biologist Marty Crump takes us on another voyage of discovery into the world of unusual natural histories, this time focusing on extraordinary interactions involving animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria. Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers& Other Unusual Relationships illuminates the ceaseless give-and-take between species. Occasionally, both interacting parties benefit, like when hornbills and dwarf mongooses hunt together for food. Other times, like when mites ride in hummingbirds’ nostrils to reach their next meal of nectar, one individual benefits and the other is neither helped nor harmed. But sometimes one individual benefits at the expense of the other; you need only recall your last sinus infection to understand how that works.

Throughout, Crump brings her trademark spunk and zest to these stories of intimate exchange. She introduces readers to penguins that babysit, pseudoscorpions that ride and mate under the wings of giant harlequin beetles, and parasitic fungi that bend insects to their will. A lively companion to Crump’s earlier work, Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers& Other Unusual Relationships captures the bizarre and befuddling aspects of the behavior of animals, plants, and microbes. After this entertaining romp through the world of natural relationships, you’ll never look at an orchid the same way again.

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various sites, often to the host’s belly or side, sometimes to the mouth or gills. They ride along on their hosts, traveling to food. These fishes leave their hosts for brief forays to feed on small fishes and invertebrates, and to mate and lay eggs. Remoras gain transportation, but they also gain protection from predators just by associating with hosts that are much larger than they are. The hosts probably lose little by carrying remoras, except that it may cost them a little more energy to swim

especially if transporting more than one remora. Depending on where the remora has attached, the hitchhiker may slightly reduce the host’s hydrodynamic efficiency. Typically, neither of these costs is high enough for the hitchhiker to qualify as a parasite, however. But does the host gain anything? It depends on what the particular remoras eat. Some eat only scraps of food that fall from the host’s mouth, bits of the host’s vomit and feces, and free-living fishes and invertebrates. In this case,

purple foxglove. The widely used anticancer drug Taxol comes from the Pacific yew tree. Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin writes in his fascinating book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice: “There exists no shortage of ‘wonder drugs’ waiting to be found in the rain forests, yet we in the industrialized world are woefully ignorant about the chemical—and, therefore, medicinal—potential of most tropical plants.” He points out that few, if any, plants used as medicines—from contraceptives to cancer

drugs containing this alkaloid still provide relief for some migraine sufferers. Ergotamine is thought to work by stimulating serotonin (a chemical needed to transmit nerve signals to the brain), constricting the blood vessels around the brain, and decreasing inflammation. Chinese writings dating back to 1100 b.c. reveal the use of ergot in obstetrics. In 370 b.c. Hippocrates noted the use of ergot to stop postpartum hemorrhage. Because epidemics of ergotism were associated with frequent

Gumert speculated that high-ranked males might pay less for sex because their social power gives w h ate v er h a ppened to ba by booby ? them easier access to females. Females might demand less grooming from them because higher-ranked males might be more valuable partners. For example, such males might be better defenders both of their mates and any resulting offspring than are lower-ranked males. Female longtailed macaques groom males, but seemingly for a different reason. Female-to-male

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