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MENNO SCHILTHUIZEN is a 45-year-old evolutionary biologist based at the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity ‘Naturalist’ in Leiden. The institution has a public museum visited by 300,000 people annually and a 37-million-specimen collection (the fifth largest in the world). He obtained a PhD from Leiden University and two postdoctoral fellowships at Wageningen University, and worked for seven years as an associate professor at the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Malaysia. In addition to his research science (which concentrates on the evolution of land snails and beetles), he has written regularly for New Scientist, Natural HistoryScience and ScienceNOW, as well as for Dutch and Malaysian national newspapers, and published two books (FROGS, FLIES AND DANDELIONS: The Making of Species, Oxford University Press, 2001; THE LOOM OF LIFE: Unravelling Ecosystems, Springer, 2008). 


Menno Schilthuizen's website

Featured titles


What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity and Ourselves


 From the very first page, Menno Schilthuizen makes us both laugh and think about the bewildering genital variation in the animal kingdom…. An exhilarating and most informative read! – Frans de Waal, author of THE BONOBO AND THE ATHEIST


A remarkable book... succeeds in finding exactly the right tone…. Schilthuizen’s entertaining work reminds us not to take ‘the mechanics of sexual intercourse’ for granted – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 


A provocative voyage on the ‘vast ocean of sexual function beyond the quiet backwater that we humans find ourselves in’ – KIRKUS REVIEWS


Schilthuizen balances the silly and the serious [and] tours some of nature's weirdest inventions – SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN


A deep dive into the science of genitals, one that comes interspersed with a selection of the finest, and most scientifically-accurate, sex jokes – Lex Berko, VICE’S MOTHERBOARD


A closer look between the legs (or, in the case of the Australian velvet worm, on the head) to explore what the sex lives of various creatures can teach us about reproduction, diversity and human sexuality…. I actually missed my stop on the train this morning because I was engrossed in the chapter about duck sex – Lindsay Abrams, SALON


A popular account of the biology of genitalia, illustrating their remarkable variation in size, shape and skills and what this eye-opening sexual cornucopia reveals about animal behaviour.


The penis has been reinvented more often than the wheel, and some of the reinventions are pretty quirky: for example, a typical damselfly penis has a balloon – an inflatable bulb – and two horns at the tip, plus long bristles down the sides. This great diversity in sexual organs illustrates one of the few rules of biology: that if species are very similar in appearance, but there is only one good way to tell them apart, that difference is almost invariably in the shape of the genitalia.


In the past two decades biologists have discovered that genitals – as tools for passing on genes to future generations – are at the forefront of evolution. Now, in NATURE'S NETHER REGIONS, Menno Schilthuizen describes this revolutionary work and the important new perspectives that it opens up on evolution, development and behaviour. He shows us how the amazing diversity of form and function in female and male genitalia – including human ones – is the result of the unexpected twists of evolution; why, in sex more than anything else, humans are the newbies where outlandish shapes and bizarre behaviours are concerned; and what this eye-popping sexual cornucopia reveals about human nature.


Publisher: Viking/Penguin (US)

Publication Date: 1 May 2014

Length: 256 pages


All rights available excluding:

World English Language (Penguin US), China (Shanghai Guo Yue Cultural and Creative Co. Ltd), France (Flammarion), Germany (DTV), Italy (Bollati Boringhieri/Mauri Spagnol), Japan (Hayakawa), Netherlands (Atlas Contact)