TITLE: Superlative: The Biology of Extremes
AUTHOR: Matthew D. LaPlante
EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE: 30 April 2019
NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.
"Welcome to the biggest, fastest, deadliest science book you'll ever read.
The world's largest land mammal could help us end cancer. The fastest bird is showing us how to solve a century-old engineering mystery. The oldest tree is giving us insights into climate change. The loudest whale is offering clues about the impact of solar storms.
For a long time, scientists ignored superlative life forms as outliers. Increasingly, though, researchers are coming to see great value in studying plants and animals that exist on the outermost edges of the bell curve.
As it turns out, there’s a lot of value in paying close attention to the “oddballs” nature has to offer.
Go for a swim with a ghost shark, the slowest-evolving creature known to humankind, which is teaching us new ways to think about immunity. Get to know the axolotl, which has the longest-known genome and may hold the secret to cellular regeneration. Learn about Monorhaphis chuni, the oldest discovered animal, which is providing insights into the connection between our terrestrial and aquatic worlds.
Superlative is the story of extreme evolution, and what we can learn from it about ourselves, our planet, and the cosmos. It's a tale of crazy-fast cheetahs and super-strong beetles, of microbacteria and enormous plants, of whip-smart dolphins and killer snakes.
This book will inspire you to change the way you think about the world and your relationship to everything in it."
Superlative is a nicely written book about animal extremes and what studying these animals can offer us in terms of knowledge, technological innovations and medical advances. LaPlante takes a look at a variaty of organisms - the fastest, tallest, largest, loudest, smallest, oldest, toughest, slowest, most venomous, most poisonous, and the smartest etc. While the author's fascination with superlative animals and plants is clearly evident, so is his (and this readers) frustration with the lack of interest science shows in these organisms. While this book isn't terribly indepth, it does provide a delightful survey of a variety of creatures, some well-known and some more obscure, as well as how the study of these superlative organisms can benefit humans in a variety of ways - everything from climate change research and indicators (frogs and clams), to genetics and cancer treatments (elephants), new drugs (spiders, snakes, jellyfish), technological advances (moths, bats, mites and whales), bioindicators (frogs), regeneration of lost limbs (Axolotl), aging, etc. The conversational style of the book makes it easy to understand. The occassional humour is amusing and not at all cringe-worthy. The extensive reference section provides a list of sources if the reader would like additional information about a particular study or topic.