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Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves
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Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The story of evolution as you’ve never heard it before
What’s the easiest way to tell species apart? Check their genitals. Researching private parts was long considered taboo, but scientists are now beginning to understand that the wild diversity of sex organs across species can tell us a lot about evolution.
Menno Schilthuizen invites readers to join him as he uncovers th
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Viking
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  326 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Start your review of Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves
What I have learned from this book which was all about sex but sadly (the only sad thing) not hot:

1) One of the prime methods of classifications of animals is by their genitals. There might be a hundred different species of beetles that all look very similar, but their genitals will be very different.

2) I have also learned that research into male parts, partly because it is obviously easier, is extensive, but female bits have had scant scientific attention until recently.

4) Homosexuality in an
Lois Bujold
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Lois by: cross-referenced on Amazon when I was looking up info on something else

An insightful and frequently hilarious tour of research and the results of same in the comparative anatomy of genitalia across the animal kingdom, and its effect on evolution and vice versa. So it hits both science, and the history of science. A 2014 book, so nicely up-to-date. About a third of the page count is notes and bibliography, but the text is completely non-ponderous. Anyone inclined to complain about this or that aspect of human sexual behavior being "unnatural" really needs to read th
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a biologist, you will love this book. Even though I am a biologist there were many, many things I learned from this book that I had never known before, or had forgotten. So little of the fascinating sex lives of animals makes into textbooks. If you are not a biologist, but just enjoy learning new and strange things, you will also like this book. Herein you will learn about spermatophores (basically sperm bombs), the longest penises in the animal world relative to body size (the barnac ...more
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining book filled with fascinating information on sexual selection related primarily to genitalia. The author writes well and has a hearty sense of humor. The book has a strong emphasis on insects and small invertebrates, but the sections on humans, primates, ducks, and squirrels (my favorite) were informative and gave me a sense of how little we know about sex in vertebrates and how assumptions about the simplicity of it all are probably very wrong.
I actually listened to this on audiobook so I don't know if I can confidently say it's a "quick read" but it struck me as such. Some interesting stuff for a reader with a passing interest in evolution. One mild criticism is that the author, although not American, seems to know a thing or two about American politics and in general he criticized where I would like to see criticism (people freaking out that a study on duck sex is a waste of tax payer dollars; people saying that abortion should be i ...more
Michael Burns
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Why the hell did I pick up this book people ask. Was it for a course? That's the only logical non-sexual deviant reason people seem to come up with. No it wasn't for a course. But I admit I have nebulous reasons for wanting to read the book... apart from the title being sufficiently weird to get my attention. (See the Dictators Handbook and How to Run a Drug Cartel)

But a weird title does not mean a good book. I've learned to not entirely trust foreign born authors trying to write interesting sci
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the evolution of genitals and the unanswered questions of sexual selection in general.

I thought that this was a great book for a number of reasons:
~The author's writing style is really entertaining. He makes a lot of references and uses colloquial terms that are familiar to the reader and even sticks in some funny turn of phrases.

~The book has a lot of novel information. The co-evolution of genitalia in the fight for dominance over reproduction is quite entertaining and the
Pat MacEwen
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent look at the wild diversity of sex organs across the animal kingdom, which has a lot to say about how evolution works. It also suggests a lot of interesting starting points for building believable aliens who amount to more than a latex appliance glued to a human forehead! Who are truly alien. The author gleefully describes the many ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles, producing penises that have developed a daunting set of spines ...more
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this book really quite fascinating. It was both informative, educating, and hilarious. The author realized that while the study of animal sex parts is useful and important science, it's also really rather funny. One of my favorite lines was in relation to those who suffer from hayfever: "few sufferers realize that they are reacting to clouds of birch ejaculate."
On the educating side of the book, it was really quite fascinating to learn about the wide variety of tactics used by different
Kyla Li
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was a great, interesting, and witty read. Highly recommended, but as with all biological research, be prepared for animal experiments/dissections/etc. -- there's no other way to get some of this information, but that doesn't mean I have to like it, or like that it happened.
J.V. Seem
Nov 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
Lots of interesting facts, told in a fun way, but the chapter setup and contents are a bit messy, as far as the decided on themes go.
Nov 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
I had high hopes for this book. Animal behavior is fascinating and animal sexual behavior is extremely so. I really enjoyed Chris Ryan's Sex at Dawn and was hoping for an education about the sexual practices of animals that was as satisfying as Ryan's book. Over the years I have learned about different aspects of animal sex, such as arms races that result in fly penises that have jagged edges and stick in the female, sperm competition in various animals, female baboons who trick the alpha male i ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
-Audiobook version-
Book content + narrator: 4.5-5 stars

I am giving this book a 4.5-5 because I loved it. This is probably because it is my first real biological book read, and the amount of information is a lot and lots of new information flooded my brain and each time being awestruck. I have overlooked some of the things goodreads readers have mentioned in their reviews as I am probably not so familiar to the biology field books.. but one thing I was certainly uneasy about when he did not discu
Julianna Crisanti
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is my first serious non-fiction and I honestly couldn't have picked a better book! This well-thought out, perfectly organized, and comedic work dives in to the strange new faction of evolutionary biology that focuses on the evolution of genitalia. With jaw-dropping examples and extremely interesting allusions to other scientists' research, Menno Schiltuizen paints an immense, colorful picture of the strange and wonderful world we live in, and easily brings science into the reader's hands wi ...more
Vib Pande
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: natural-world, 2019
An engaging read, deriving from diverse sources, demystifying (to some length) the biological processes - of natural and sexual selection, esp the latter. Though "sex sells" is an adage that runs true, our general enlightenment on this is superficial, as a read of this book proves. The author dedicates a lot into the tiny details, which is great. The language - aimed to describe and conjecture the mating behaviors and organs of diverse lifeforms - leads to novel and bizzare phrases at times.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Confession: This is the third book I've read about animal sex. What is interesting about this book is that it focuses on genitalia specifically, not an all encompassing book about behavior, etc. It was fascinating to learn about how sexual selection is different from natural selection. Finally, his explanation about why there are male and female sexes in the first place blew my mind. This book was a definite nerdgasm.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Lots of crazy stuff on this planet, folks.
I will never eat a squid again.
Now I know why spiders are usually in a hurry during a certain time of year.
My only complaint is that it would have been nice to have some color plates added to this book.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, but probably more than I really wanted to know about invertebrate sex. (The parts on birds and primates are interesting, too).
Daniel Farabaugh
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating read as nature presents an amazing array of fascinating reproductive strategies. At times it gets a bit technical but overall it is an great read.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Amazing! It was so interesting and funny to read this book (sometimes a bit macabre) but I literally devoured it since the first page. MAybe it's been the best Valentine's day gift I've ever received. Thanks to my wonderful husband who knows I'm always so curious about animals world...
I hope to read more by Menno Schilthuizen
Jeffrey E
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great balance between stuff a researcher would find interesting and things a nature lover would find fascinating.
Costin Manda
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I guess when your main work concerns the sex organs of animals, you have to own a healthy sense of humor. That is why, even if I wasn't terribly interested in the subject, I continued to read the book mostly because of Menno Schilthuizen's writing style. This book - full title Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves - kept being funny and captivating, despite being about a niche subject treated in a very scientif ...more
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A fantastic journey into the fascinating world of animal reproduction and the unique, often bizarre structures and functions, mating behaviours, and physiological adaptations that exist. The author covers the full breadth of the Animalia, from the smallest invertebrates to humans, presenting some ground breaking, often controversial research and interpretation of the results. The writing is in a non-technical (when ever possible) format that is enjoyable to read, and in many places, very funny. ...more
Haiko Van Der Leeuw
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As I'm nearing the end of this great book I have only a few remarks, some small points of criticism.
One is about the writing style, the author covers various hypothesis and discarded theories that were once used to explain various phenomena whereafter he continues by pointing out why these were later found to be inadequate.
All good, were it not for the fact that he describes the old theories in a way that make it sound as if they are still relevant today. One example being the "lock-key hypothes
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Amateur evolutionary biologist and the people who love them
I could have done without the too-cute asides and double entendres but there is a serious point to this celebration of genitalia and that is:

[S]tudying the evolution of genitalia has provided us with deep insights and spectacular panoramas on the history of life....

Somewhere in the deep folds of time, sex arose as a means to outrun fast-evolving viruses or help fix errors in the genetic code. Then a bacterium crawled into a primordial cell. To counter combat among cohabiting bacteria, separate m
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
The peculiar shapes of animal genitalia (mostly insects' genitalia) and methods of sexual congress – or at least of insemination – reveal the peculiar way that evolution has shaped the methods of reproduction. At the end the author admits that more attention has been paid, overall, to the peculiarities of the male member than has been paid to the female system, despite the fact that the female's sexual anatomy can be seen to drive the evolution of male structures, in both shape and method of del ...more
Allison Ririe
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book reads like a tongue-in-cheek textbook, which is how I wish all my textbooks had read. The author wants to make a point that genitalia and sexual behavior matter not just for evolution and survival, but also to draw parallels to our own human world. He reviews the research that has been done through the years and relates it to research now being done, including by him. His wit is sharp and I found myself reading parts aloud to my husband and both of us getting good laughs.

That said, it
John Fredrickson
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fun read. The author shows the many ways that males and females of different species compete and cooperate in the serious game of propagation. The contest between the libidinous profligacy of males is contrasted with the selectivity of females, and a lot of attention is devoted to the ways in which the genders of different species attempt to genetically outwit each other. Females that eject unwanted sperm, males that plug the female orifice to block semen loss as well as other competi ...more
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A solid four stars for the amazingly painstaking efforts by biologists that has led to the making of this book. I have renewed respect for biologists after reading Nature's Nether regions.

Charles Darwin introduced us to the theory of evolution, and others carried his work forward over the years. And yet, after having read this book, I felt that we might think we know evolution, but we really don't. For we know the effects of evolution, but the primary organs that bring about this change are stil
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not necessarily a book that someone would look at and immediately purchase, however this is a piece of science literature that anyone could enjoy. I was often embarrassed to be reading it in public, so much so I removed the outer jacket, but I have shared all of my new animal sex facts with anyone who will listen. Schilthuizen is very entertaining, it was an easy read. If you find yourself in a bookstore, at least read the Afterplay, which discusses how something like slug sex is relevan ...more
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