Flaws of Nature: The Limits and Liabilities of Natural Selection
Species evolve over time to become perfectly adapted to their environments, right?
Consider that an elephant will not grow a seventh set of teeth, even though wearing down the sixth will condemn it to starvation; that hosts of the European cuckoo seem unable to tell that the overgrown monster in their nest is not their own chick; and that whales are fully aquatic mammals who, millions of years after first abandoning the land, still cannot breathe underwater.
This book is about evolution, but not its greatest hits. Instead, it explores everything in the animal kingdom that is self-defeating, ill-made, uneconomical, or downright weird – and explains how natural selection has favoured it. In the grand struggle for survival, some surprising patterns emerge: animals are always slightly out-of-date; inefficiency tends to increase over time; predators usually lose, and parasites usually win. With equal parts humour and scientific insight, Andy Dobson is here to explain the how and why of evolution’s limits and liabilities.
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