The weird and wonderful world of animal attraction
Think you know all about the birds and bees? The mating rituals of some creatures are frankly bizarre, frequently disturbing - but endlessly fascinating. After reading Strange Mates, you'll look at courtship and sex in a completely different way, astonished when you learn of the honey bee's exploding testicles, the frigatebird's inflatable red heart-shaped throat sac, the male giraffe's urine taste test to check if his mate's ready for "makin' whoopee!"
You'll discover nature's nifty movers: the little manakin bird who woos the ladies with an impressive Michael Jackson style moonwalk; you'll learn how similar we humans can be to white-fronted parrots, which lock beaks and kiss, French style, before vomiting. Clownfish don't fool around when it comes to mating: if the female of a pair dies her partner changes sex and breeds with another male.
Where the lumbering giant Galapagos tortoise is concerned, size is everything - but only when it comes to the length of his neck - whereas with the 193kg silverback gorilla the opposite is true: this stud of a troop of up to thirty females is less well endowed, with only a 4cm long penis.
Men? Who needs them? Certainly not whiptail lizards. These reptiles of the Americas are all female and reproduce after the act of pseudocopulation - by cloning themselves. On the other hand, female anglerfish do have a use for the male of the species: the tiny male anglerfish, born without a digestive system, fuses with his giant partner's body and wastes away, releasing sperm to fertilize her egg.
If a romantic dinner à deux with the one you love ranks high in the courtship stakes, consider the hippo: the male's idea of wooing a potential beau is to spin his tail like a propeller while defecting and urinating. The ladies find this utterly irresistible.
Strange Mates takes an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek look at the mating practices of our neighbours in the animal kingdom and asks the pertinent question: "Are we so different?" The answer, although an emphatic "Yes!", is a fascinating snapshot of the diversity of nature and the propagation of species.