The perfect Valentine’s Day gift for readers and science nerds: Sex in the Sea

Looking for a last-minute, untraditional Valentine’s Day gift for someone who

  1. loves to read
  2. is a science nerd
  3. enjoys laughing out loud
  4. all of the above?

Sex in the SeaGet yourself to the nearest bookstore this weekend to buy coral reef ecologist Marah J. Hardt’s Sex in the Sea, the subtitle of which is Our Intimate Connection with Sex-Changing Fish, Romantic Lobsters, Kinky Squid, and Other Salty Erotica of the Deep (St. Martin’s Press, 2016).

You might be thinking, sure, the title is titillating, but science writing is so dry. Not this book. I’ve indexed many science-related books over the years, and I can’t think of one that is more well-written for a general audience than Sex in the Sea (also, I never before have had cause to index the term “penis fencing”). Hardt’s prose as elegant, super smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, complemented perfectly with illustrations by Missy Chimovitz. In fact, reading passages aloud to one other would make a perfect Valentine’s Day date for the human species.

The author’s blog offers a taste of what you’ll find:

“It’s January, and seahorses in the southern hemisphere are full swing into some summer lovin’.  And if you’re out cruising the seagrass beds off Australia’s south coast, you might get lucky too, and witness the remarkable act of a female impregnating a male. Seahorses turn the tables on sexual roles.

And while their cryptic coloration makes courting seahorses difficult to see, especially observant divers—like the two researchers who filmed the footage below—might catch a glimpse of the extraordinary aftermath of seahorse sex: a seahorse dad giving birth in the wild… ” Read more and see the video

Not in the mood for love this Valentine’s Day? Take a cue from female copepods who perform a “rejection dance” of “extreme flips and violent shaking,” whether “to discourage fertilization when it is not needed or a way to test the male’s mettle is not known” (Hardt, p. 12).

A couple of other fun ideas for Valentine’s Day come from Cory Doctorow: Nerdy (math-related) Valentines and historical suffragist Valentines cards.

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