Animal Weapons, by Douglas J. Emlen

I wish that Emlen had stuck to the stated premise of this book, as the parts involving actual animal weapons were by far the most interesting. For whatever reason, he felt the need to draw parallels between animal and human weapon/defense evolution and ends his book with a polemic against weapons of mass destruction. This all makes for a rather disjointed narrative, and frankly I found everything about human evolution to be boring, stating the obvious instead of drawing new or unique conclusions from his work.

Learning about animals and their different weapons - claws, spurs, teeth, horns, etc. - was fascinating. Who knew that certain types of ant had jaws that close so swiftly and tightly that their heads could be used as wound sutures?? But there wasn't enough of that type of story to hold my interest. There weren't enough new tidbits of information to outweigh all the stuff I already knew, or could logically deduce on my own. The book is about evolution; pretty much all the animals in here evolved rather predictably, but Emlen outlines their evolution exhaustively.

Then there's the parts where he points out how the evolution of human weaponry mimics that of animals. Well, duh. Evolution is evolution is evolution. Is there really that much new to say about it? Presented as a special interest topic told in an approachable manner, this is really more of a primer on evolution using examples that would interest someone who perhaps has little personal need to understand evolution in the first place. Do adults these days really not know what an arms race is? Do we need fifteen separate examples to be convinced of its existence? In brief, I wish Emlen had stuck to the weird stuff and left the basic explanations to Bill Nye.



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