On the bookshelf
Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom
Despite the major differences between men and women (Men are from Mars, Women from Venus), these variations between the sexes are nothing compared to those in some animal species. Differences along gender lines can account for a 50-factor size difference!
In the book “Odd Couples” are descriptions of the most extreme differences between males and females of certain animal species. Unique and bizarre differences in size, behaviour, ecology and lifecycle are examined, as are the animals’ special strategies for maximising reproductive success. Fairbairn, the author, searches from the deep sea to the hot interior of Spain to find out why these differences exist. She expounds on elephant seal harems, where the females, though much smaller, are constantly disturbed by the males. She explains why small, underdeveloped male frogfish attach themselves like parasites to the much larger females. And then there is the one-centimetre-long blanket octopus male that manages to fertilise the female that is a two-metre giant: the male of this species has an arm larger than his body that is converted into a penis.
These differences and the many more described make it clear that there is no “standard” or “normal” variation between the sexes; all differences appear to be possible. The book offers a sweeping view of the diversity of the animal kingdom.
Title: Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom
Author: Daphne J. Fairbairn
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2013