If you love nature then you will probably love this book – it is essential reading for nature lovers.
Quirky views, beautifully written, and dispensing fascinating facts every few sentences, this is a thoughtful celebration of life on Earth.
And it is a book which delves into the least known and least celebrated groups of animals and brings them to life. For all those who can remember afternoons at school or university with a scalpel in hand, dissecting some formalin-preserved corpse of a dogfish , or investigating the insides of an earthworm, this book will bring back to mind some names, long forgotten facts and the tedium of it all. Zoology students might well benefit more by sitting in the laboratory and opening this book if they are to be enthused about the variety of life on Earth. For this is a rollicking, romp through the animal kingdom with chapters such as ‘No sex please, we’re bdelloids’, ‘ Sex and the single slug’ and ‘Let copulation thrive’. But I’ll be impressed if you know what placazoans are, as I didn’t, and now I am glad that I do. And I learned much about bryozoans. And much about so many more creatures.
Those who agree with Pope, that ‘the proper study of mankind is man’ would do well to take this book as an antidote. The proper study of mankind is biology, in order to get a less anthropocentric view of life, followed by astronomy, to get a less earth-centric view of our position in the big scheme of things. If only our politicians knew how much they shared with priapulids.
And in case you were wondering, Hen Harriers and grouse moors have a walk on part on page 239.
Ten Million Aliens: a journey through the entire animal kingdom by Simon Barnes is published by Short Books and is available from a wide range of bookstores and web-based outlets.