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Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate…

Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate Intelligence (Nonfiction -…

by Ann Downer

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This is one of those books that I, personally, want so badly to recommend to readers but I'm skeptical of finding anyone willing (or able) to read it. But I just couldn't bear to let it go (that's my excuse for keeping it a week....or two...overdue anyways)

Downer explores not only the intelligence of invertebrates, including current research, she also discusses what it means to be smart and how scientists are changing the measurements. Worms, spiders, octopuses, bees and wasps, ants, mantis shrimps, box jellyfish and slime molds are separated into chapters. Each starts with a set of basic facts about the animal - its common and scientific name, relatives, habitat and habits, and brain size, if measured. The book is prefaced with a discussion of intelligence in vertebrates and invertebrates and finishes with an overview of several invertebrates possibly intelligent behavior and why it matters. Detailed source notes, glossary, bibliography, and extensive further information on each creature featured is included in the back matter.

The book includes a rich treasure trove of photographs, additional information, historical details and context, and references to current research into intelligent behaviors. With all of this awesomeness, who would NOT want this book? Well, there are two drawbacks. First, the type is pretty small. It's a normal size for an adult nonfiction title, plus being broken up with the photographs and additional information, but a lot of kids will flick books open, see the small type, and not even try. Secondly, this is from an imprint of Lerner that is super expensive - over $20. It's hard to convince myself to shell out that much for a book that is not going to fly off the shelves.

Verdict: But....it's soooo good! Informative, beautifully written, fascinating....I think I'm going to splurge on it and put extra effort into convincing kids to give it a try. Middle school is the most likely audience, since it's a challenging read but overall a slim volume under 100 pages.

ISBN: 9781467737395; Published 2015 by Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium
  JeanLittleLibrary | Feb 20, 2016 |
  Bookman1954 | Oct 21, 2015 |
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When we think of intelligent creatures, we often think of vertebrates, or animals with spinal columns and relatively large brains. We don't usually think of invertebrates, or animals without a spine. But invertebrates can be astonishingly intelligent. These animals exhibit surprising feats of learning, memory, and problem-solving using their relatively simple, tiny brains some the size of a sesame seed or even smaller. In fact, some intelligent invertebrates have no brain at all! Scientists around the world are putting invertebrate intelligence to use in mind-boggling ways. Engineers are designing swarmbots based on bees to take part in search-and-rescue efforts. And materials scientists are basing a new, tough ceramic on the structure of a mantis shrimp's claw. In Smart and Spineless, readers will be challenged to think in a whole new way about what it means to be smart!… (more)

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