Emmanuelle Pouydebat

Emmanuelle Pouydebat is a permanent researcher employed by the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), working at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. She is the author of Atlas of Poetic Zoology (MIT Press).

  • Sexus Animalis

    Sexus Animalis

    There Is Nothing Unnatural in Nature

    Emmanuelle Pouydebat

    An illustrated guide to the amazingly multifarious sex lives of animals, from elephants and bonobos to butterflies and bedbugs.

    There may be nothing unnatural in nature, but nature still encompasses much that seems fantastically strange—the amazingly multifarious sex lives of animals, for example. Sexus Animalis tells us everything we never dreamed we wanted to know about the reproductive systems, genital organs, and sexual practices of animals, from elephants (who masturbate with their trunks) to fruit flies (who produce spermatozoa twenty times their size). In the animal kingdom we find heterosexual, lesbian, gay, and bisexual behavior, as well as monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry, not to mention fellatio and many varieties of erections and orgasms.

    Emmanuelle Pouydebat, a natural history researcher, tells us about gutter penises, double penises, detachable penises, and corkscrew-shaped penises, as well as vaginas built for storage and clitorises with thorns. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's more data about animal penises than animal vaginas and clitorises.) She explains how the ostrich achieves an erection, describes the courtship of pygmy chameleons, and recounts how the female short-beaked echidna chooses a partner. She reports on sexual assault among animals—there's evidence that half of female mallards are sexually assaulted—and explains how masturbation helps squirrels avoid sexually transmitted diseases. It seems that animals have been composing their own Kama Sutra throughout the ages. Striking color illustrations accompany the text.

    • Hardcover $29.95
  • Atlas of Poetic Zoology

    Atlas of Poetic Zoology

    Emmanuelle Pouydebat

    A catalog of wonders, from walking fish to self-medicating chimpanzees.

    This Atlas of Poetic Zoology leads readers into a world of wonders where turtles fly under the sea, lizards walk on water, insects impersonate flowers, birds don't fly, frogs come back from the dead, and virgin sharks give birth. Animals, writes Emmanuelle Pouydebat, are lyric poets; they discover and shape the world when they sing, dance, explore, and reproduce. The animal kingdom has been evolving for millions of years, weathering many crises of extinction; this book allows us to draw inspiration from animals' enduring vitality.

    Pouydebat's text, accompanied by striking color illustrations by artist Julie Terrazzoni, offers a catalog of wondrous beings. Pouydebat describes the African bush elephant—the biggest land mammal of them all, but the evolutionary descendant of a tiny animal that stood less than fifty centimeters (nineteen inches) high sixty million years ago; the scaly, toothless pangolin, the world's most endangered mammal—and perhaps its most atypical; the red-lipped batfish, which walks, rather than swims, across the ocean floor; and the great black cockatoo, a gifted percussionist. Chimpanzees, she tells us, self-medicate with medicinal plants; the jellyfish, under stress, reverts to juvenile polyp-hood; and the sweetly named honey badger feeds on reptiles, termites, scorpions, and earthworms.

    Pouydebat, a researcher at the French Museum of Natural History, and Terrazzoni capture the astonishment promised by any excursion into nature—the happiness that comes from watching a dragonfly, spider, frog, lizard, elephant, parrot, mouse, orangutan, or ladybug. It's the joy of witnessing life itself. We need only open our eyes to see.

    • Hardcover $24.95