Picks and Pans Review: The Dance of Life

updated 02/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Mark Jerome Walters

On the other hand, gals and guys, maybe we don't have it so bad. Consider the European common toad: During its mating ritual, hordes of male toads anxious to consummate a relationship pile onto a single female, sometimes with such devotion that she is smothered. Or how about the praying mantis: During its sexual interludes, the female often tears off the male's head and eats it, so that the relevant portion of the poor fellow's anatomy can proceed to the matters at hand more single-mindedly. There are many such fascinating tales of sex among the animals in this slender book of popular biology by a veteran science journalist. Walters has marshaled an absorbing array of facts about such things as the monogamous traits of wolves about Boar's Mate, which is an aphrodisiac hormone emitted by male pigs that is bottled and sold to farmers anxious to encourage intimacy in the stys. Walters cautions that while human activities in this area may be related to that of animals in evolutionary ways, we should not draw the parallels too closely and use, say, the notorious promiscuity of chimpanzees as a model. He also graciously avoids pointing out that as far as bizarre mating behavior goes, nothing the alligators or zebras do is likely to equal a typical weekend at Club Med. (Arbor House, $17.95)

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