Nursery Earth

Regular price $26.95
An eye-popping, narratively compelling safari through animal infants—from egg to metamorphosis, from cicadas to squids—and how essential “baby” animals are to life on Earth, whatever their form and lifespan

When we imagine animals, we typically think of them in their adult forms—cats rather than kittens, full-grown fish rather than minuscule eggs. But at any given moment, the vast majority of animals on Earth are, in fact, babies. Nursery Earth sets out to give this vital stage of life its due, revealing fascinating aspects of biology by considering how different creatures grow and develop.

Why do most animals (perhaps 90 percent of species) go through a developmental phase at the start of their lives in which they look and act completely different from their parents (and inhabit entirely different habitats)? And why and how are eggs and embryos, larvae and hatchlings, and all manner of other early life forms crucial to ecology and conservation, food security and human health? Marshaling the latest evidence-based research, reporting from the labs and outposts of biological discovery, and recounting tales from a lifetime studying animals, Danna Staaf delves into these questions and more.

On her quest to explore animal development, Staaf brings readers on her travels across the United States, seeking elusive squid eggs on a research ship in the Gulf of California and witnessing the cacophonous emergence of cicada Brood X on the east coast of the United States. Throughout, photographs and illustrations offer readers a peek at the fascinating and sometimes-strange babies she studies, creatures like the juvenile echidna “puggle” and the caterpillar snake mimic: a baby moth that looks and acts just like a venomous snake.

Over and over, we learn how important animals’ earliest life stages are to the ecosystems they inhabit, and how vulnerable they are to perturbations like pollution and climate change. Nursery Earth achieves something one might think impossible: helping us appreciate and love baby animals even more than we already do.