Review: The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Title: The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales

Author: Lucy Cooke

Published: 31st May 2018, Black Swan

Status: Read November 2022


My Thoughts:

In The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales, New York Times best-selling author, award-winning documentary filmmaker and broadcaster, and National Geographic explorer Lucy Cooke counters the ‘biggest misconceptions, mistakes and myths we’ve concocted about the animal kingdom’.

Written with an irreverence tempered by passion, Cooke exposes the secrets of thirteen well known animals, drawing from historical sources, current research, and her own knowledge and experience.

Here are just a few of the unexpected truths I learned:

  • Despite billions of dollars and the best of modern technology, we still are not certain how or where the Anguilla anguilla (Eel) reproduce.
  • The sloth’s neck has more vertebrae than any other mammal’s, even the giraffe’s.
  • Vultures have been used to detect gas leaks in pipelines
  • To determine how bats are able to fly in the dark, Italian Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani experimented by systematically removing their eyeballs, plugging their ears and noses, cutting off their tongues, and coating them in varnish.
  • From the 1940s through to the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test came courtesy of a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian squirted out eggs eight to twelve hours later to confirm a positive result.
  • Storks were exterminated in Britain because the church was offended by the ‘pagan’ belief that they played a part in bringing a couple a baby.
  • Hippopotamuses secrete a substance that is acts as sunscreen, fly repellent and antiseptic.
  • Pandas might look cute and harmless but the powerful muscles in the panda’s cheeks deliver a bite force almost equal to a lion’s.
  • Adélie penguins exchange sex for pebbles from single males to shore up their nests.

And so much more! I’ve shared some of the tamer revelations here because, among other things, the sex lives of desperate male penguins are a little disturbing. This is definitely not a book for prudes, or anyone who prefers the Disney version of animals.

Witty, informative and utterly fascinating, The Unexpected Truths About Animals is an engrossing read.


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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WendyW
    Nov 23, 2022 @ 03:08:40

    I love books like this that are full of cool information

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Tracey (Carpe Librum)
    Nov 25, 2022 @ 00:49:23

    This sounds right up my alley Shelleyrae! That fact about the frog and pregnancy is so strange 🤯



  3. sydneyeditor1
    Nov 26, 2022 @ 21:22:28

    Okay, so as fascinating as the info is, what the Italian Catholic priest did is YIKES, seriously disturbing. The rest of the information is cool though — I mean the frogs!

    Liked by 1 person


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