Great Adaptations: Star-Nosed Moles, Electric Eels, and Other Tales of Evolution’s Mysteries Solved

Kenneth Catania. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-691-19525-4
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. He shares his experiences asking fascinating questions about a number of odd animals including the star-nosed mole, the electric eel, the water shrew, large Florida earthworms, and the emerald jewel wasp. In each case, he describes how his research led to new discoveries, such as how the mole’s nose functions as perhaps the “most sensitive and high-resolution touch system on our planet,” and how the wasp controls the behavior of far larger cockroaches by injecting them with a potent venom. He also explains how his findings may yield insight into other subjects. The wasp venom, for example, may help treat Parkinson’s disease, while the eel’s electrical pulses relate to echolocation in bats, and the mole’s elaborate sense of touch, its primary sense, is surprisingly similar to human vision. 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. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/03/2020
Release date: 09/15/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-691-20955-5
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-691-22847-1
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