Friday, April 17, 2009

Summer World by Bernd Heinrich


Title: Summer World
Author: Bernd Heinrich
# pages: 230
Date published: April 2009
Genre: nonfiction (nature)
Challenge(s): 100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, RYOB challenge, Pages Read Challenge, Countdown Challenge

Rating: (very good)


First sentence(s) - From an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) quotes may be different in the final version of the book:

“March often brings heavy snofalls here in Maine and Vermont. It’s cold outside and I spend much of my time behind windowpanes in a bubble of tropical environment created by our wood-burning stove. I’m waiting for summer.”
What is it all about? After things thaw out in the first couple of chapters, things get really interesting with the sex lives of wood frogs. I found it kind of funny that male wood frogs outnumber females by about 6 to 1. Therefore, during mating season, as soon as a female jumps into the pond, she’s descended upon by a number of males all at once. The one who is about to get lucky grasps the female around her chest and locks his thumbs on her underside. She then swims off with him on her back to the place where she will lay her eggs and he will fertilize them (and let her out of the head lock). If she doesn’t move fast enough, she may find herself with surplus males hanging off of any body part they can grab on to. Some of them even try to wiggle underneath the male that already has her in his grip. The other frogs are rarely successful in dislodging the one who got there first, but if the female is too big (or he is too small) and he can’t get his arms around her far enough to lock his thumbs, he’s a goner. The amorous males will also apparently grab onto other male frogs that jump into the lake in the effort to grab the assumed-female before being outnumbered. To rectify the matter as soon as possible, the mistakenly-grabbed male does his frog call thing (only the males call) and is immediately released. Guess when you only have about a 40% chance of ever getting any, it’s better to clasp first and ask questions later. Am I the only one who finds this kind of thing fascinating?

Random thoughts: Summer World is a beautifully written book full of lyrical language, beautiful and detailed sketches, and fasintating facts about all kinds of New England flora and fauna. If you live in New England it would be a fascinating book to read as summer begins. I wish someone would write a book like this about Florida animals and plants. I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

Fun tidbits:
  • Heinrich has participated in many marathons and ultramaratons (distances over the standard 26 miles). His book about running is called Why We Run: A Natural History.
Recommended for readers who: are fascinated with nature and the strange behaviors of animals.


Jeane said...

I've been fascinated and enthralled by every (count three) Heinrich book I've read. I think I'd love this one (does he explain why there are so many more males?

Kristi said...

You know, I don't remember if he explained it or not, but I thought it was really weird.

Beth F said...

This sounds lovely. I'll keep it in mind for my New England friends.

Fyrefly said...

Am I the only one who finds this kind of thing fascinating?Nope! That's why I'm still in grad school. :)