Desmond Morris, author of the groundbreaking The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal, now turns his attention to the nearly surreal traits of the younger set. In Amazing Baby, he uses beatific photos along with illustrations and overlays to reveal babies’ anatomy and illuminate their mind-boggling characteristics, from reflexes and behavior to their fascinating sense organs.
Take, for example, their acute sense of taste: Babies arrive with an adult’s full complement of taste buds (10,000), including some on the roof of their mouth. And hearing: A 6-month fetus’s heart rate slows whenever a new, loud noise is heard, indicating a preference for the familiar. Morris even offers a theory for the predominance of right-handedness: At the end of pregnancy, most fetuses lie with their right hand toward the mother’s body surface; that hand probably gets more stimulation and thus nerve development.
While more in-depth commentary would have been appreciated, Morris deftly explains what’s going on in baby’s brain and body while hinting at how much remains utterly mysterious. (Firefly Books, Ltd., $40)