Friday, June 08, 2018

Extreme Exhibitionism! Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Most of the time animals do their best to blend in. A predator that is easy to spot can frighten away prey. And staying hidden is a good idea for any animal that risks becoming a meal for another creature.

But sometimes an animal wants to stand out.

Why would an animal want to stand out in his environment?

Often it's one of those "things we do for love--to attract a mate! That's a time for the biggest, brightest, and best performance to beat out the competition.

The magnificent frigatebird mostly spends its life flying.

Rarely landing, it even sleeps on the wing. But when it's time to start a family, a male finds a spot on the ground and signals a female by inflating a bright red pouch of skin on his throat.

The frigatebird isn't the only creature who floats a bright trial balloon to catch the eye of a lady. The hooded seal blows up his hood and inflates a sack under his neck to show his colors. Like the ostentatious male peacock, great crested grebes and royal flycatchers strut their stuff with bright crests and showy plumes. The mandarin fish sports colors that resemble a preschool finger painting job, while the mandarin duck sprouts bright red, orange, and yellow plumage in spring, and the male Indian bullfrog turns bright yellow, with not one, but two bright green neck sacs to show off for females.

Some odd creatures eschew colors but, like fireflies and the lantern fish, use self-generated light to demonstrate their desirability. But opportunistic species like the photuris firefly and the deep sea dragonfish use their similar lights to attract, not a mate, but a meal.

Some creatures go in for extreme theatrics, with displays and dances that can attract or sometimes deter others, like the Budget's frog, who can puff up and show his teeth--yes, teeth! Then there is the modest little pufferfish, which blows up and raises prickly spines, an act that everybody finds hard to swallow.

Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's forthcoming animal extravaganza, Look at Me!: How to Attract Attention in the Animal World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) makes the most of artist Steve Jenkins' expansive collage illustrations which show off various species in all their glorious exhibitionism. With an appendix that features a thumbnail-illustrated glossary and a bibliography of books and internet sources, a new feature, internet search terms for young nature scientists, this newest nature science book is the product of painstaking research and inimitable art, a first choice for all libraries or nature lovers.

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