Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Martin, an anthropologist and curator at Chicago's Field Museum, covers every aspect of human reproduction-from fertilization to infant care-in this thoughtful, well-written book. He takes an evolutionary approach throughout, exploring similarities and differences between humans, our primate relatives, and mammals in general, in an attempt to understand the origins of many of our behaviors and physiological patterns, and how these have changed, and continue to change as time goes on. Martin discusses the production of gametes (sperm counts have experienced a significant and shocking decline over the past 50 years), the patterns and purpose of menstruation, the value and cost of breast-feeding, and various mechanisms of contraception, among other interesting topics. His comparative analysis and expertise permits him to draw compelling conclusions, as he does in his examination of the reproductive tracts of mammals: "All evidence combined indicates that the reproductive systems of both men and women are adapted for a one-male mating context with little sperm competition." But he also raises thought-provoking questions, such as why so many sperm-on the order of 250 billion-are released when only one can inseminate the egg. The only disappointment is that, despite the book's subtitle, Martin spends less than a single page looking at the "future of human reproduction." Glossary. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (June 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

This fascinating, highly readable book by a leading expert on the evolution of primate reproduction examines human reproduction from an evolutionary perspective. Although the somewhat unfortunate title might suggest a book focusing on the sex act, this is not the case. Martin (Field Museum; Univ. of Chicago) begins with an account of sperm and egg development and then considers a wide range of topics. These include seasonality in conception; the ancestral human mating system (he favors a one-male system); when in the menstrual cycle conception can occur (he argues it is not limited to mid-cycle because sperm are stored in the female reproductive tract); length of human pregnancy; morning sickness; placenta structure; human brain growth and the problems that large brains cause in childbirth; nutritional properties of human breast milk; toilet training; birth control; and assisted reproductive techniques. Martin's approach clearly illustrates how a comparative evolutionary perspective utilizing information on other primates, other mammals, and even a wider range of animals can enrich people's understanding of human reproduction. The author explains potentially complicated topics in a marvelously clear manner; although the focus is clearly evolutionary, he does not shy from considering practical implications. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. S. Stinson emerita, CUNY Queens College


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This fascinating, comprehensive look at human evolution raises important questions about what everything from bottle-fed babies to assisted reproduction means for the future of the species. Martin, curator of biological anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago and a member of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, explains that he consulted more than 5,000 scientific papers and books to distill the essence of this vast subject. He succeeds in his stated goal to maintain accuracy while writing plain English. (A glossary that defines words such as aspermia, or a complete lack of semen, helps.) And this overview is filled with fascinating facts: it takes a quarter of a billion sperm to fertilize one human egg; apes and monkeys menstruate, but most other mammals don't; regular sauna use can hurt sperm production because of the heat; fat tissue accounts for more than a pound of a typical seven-and-a-half-pound newborn; crib death is more likely in bottle-fed infants; and breast cancer is less common in nursing moms. A must-read for anyone interested in human evolution.--Springen, Karen Copyright 2010 Booklist