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Monday, July 3, 2017

Shell, Beak, Tusk: Shared Traits and the Wonders of Adaptation, by Bridget Heos. Houoghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"But as the top predator in the ocean, an orca doesn't use its camouflage for protection. Rather, the orca's black and white pattern allows it to sneak up on the animals it eats, such as seals, whales, and even penguins (if the orca can see them!)."

The author continues: "Though they share the ocean, a penguin is a bird and an orca is a mammal. They both developed black and white coloring as an adaptation to life in the ocean."

I learn 'stuff' every day from my reading. Never has convergent evolution made as much sense as it does here. It is about those animals who share traits, but not a family tree. Pretty simple, huh?

I know Bridget Heos' audience is meant to be young readers. I just want her to know that she made the connection even with those of us who are much older, and didn't know what she so aptly teaches in this welcome book.

The gorgeous photographs are a huge help to understanding, but she does make her point in friendly text and small bits of information that make the learning accessible, and important. An explanation concerning traits and adaptation is helpful to get the learning started. The large, detailed and colorful photos give context and certainly have an 'ooh' factor.

Two page spreads discuss such similarities between animals as spines, shells, tall ears, wings, camouflage, light, beaks, bills, a long, sticky tongue, and tusks.

One pairing I found particularly interesting was the one about light.

"A LIGHT is for drawing attention.

A  firefly's glow is caused by a chemical inside its body. The flashing light is usually used
to attract a mate. But fireflies don't always play fair. Some trick other species. In that case,
a firefly will see a familiar flash and approach, only to get eaten by the trickster insect.

In the darkness of the deep sea, the angelfish's light dangles from its dorsal fin. It
glows because of light-up bacteria living inside the fish. The light lures other fish to
come near. Then the angelfish eats them.

A firefly is a beetle, a type of insect. An angelfish is, of course, a fish. In both cases, the
lights say, "Look at me!" What they don't say is, "I'm going to eat you!"

There you have it!

An extensive bibliography and an index prove useful for those wanting to go back to their favorite part of the book, or for extending knowledge of same.

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