“A bizarre collection of evolution tales . . . the weirder, the better.” —Entertainment Weekly
A fascinating exploration of the awe-inspiring, unsettling ingenuity of evolution from Wired writer Matt Simon, author of Plight of the Living Dead (coming soon from Penguin Books)
On a barren seafloor, the pearlfish swims into the safety of a sea cucumber’s anus. To find a meal, the female bolas spider releases pheromones that mimic a female moth, luring male moths into her sticky lasso web. The Glyptapanteles wasp injects a caterpillar with her young, which feed on the victim, erupt out of it, then mind-control the poor (and somehow still living) schmuck into protecting them from predators.
These are among the curious critters of The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar, a jaunt through evolution’s most unbelievable, most ingenious solutions to the problems of everyday life, from trying to get laid to finding food. Join Wired science writer Matt Simon as he introduces you to the creatures that have it figured out, the ones that joust with their mustaches or choke sharks to death with snot, all in a wild struggle to survive and, of course, find true love.
Winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award
Simon, a science writer at Wired magazine, lays out an entertaining look at evolution's frightening billion-year arms race. All species must adapt to changing environments to survive; many do it in strange ways, and Simon delivers a well-written, if light, recitation of some of the weirdest. There are camouflage creatures: the spider-tailed horned viper, whose accurately named tail lures prey; the orb weaver spider, which spins a web to mimic "bird turds"; a "satanic" gecko that's shaped like a leaf; and the cuttlefish, which is capable of imitating any background. Simon also profiles some mind controllers, including Glyptapanteles wasps, which inject their eggs into caterpillars so that the resulting larvae can puppet them into being their bodyguards, and the Ophiocordyceps fungus that "invades ants' brains and mind-controls them up into trees." Many animals live in odd places such as the gonads of sea cucumbers or the tongues of fish and others wield bizarre weapons (heated hammer hands, intoxicants, glue). This is not an in-depth look at evolutionary processes; each entry in the parade of creatures is brief. Simon's wit, combined with the genuine eccentricity of his subjects, make this a fun and accessible book.