Douglass Distinguished Lecture

Douglas Emlen, PhD

Extreme Weapons: A Natural History

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

Crested Butte Center for the Arts

7:00 – 8:00 pm

Every animal has a weapon of one sort or another, but the overwhelming majority of weapons stay small.  Yet, sprinkled through the tree of life are species where weapons become extreme. Occasionally, human-manufactured weapons also evolve to extremes.  Emlen reveals that the same critical conditions trigger arms races in both cases, and the most crucial prerequisite is duels.  A journey that begins with biology becomes the story of all weapons, as Emlen discusses beetles and battleships, crabs and the Cold War.

Douglas Emlen is a regents professor of biology at the University of Montana.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the U. S. Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.  His book Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle (Henry Holt, 2014) won the Phi Beta Kappa science book of the year award in 2015, and his textbook Evolution: Making Sense of Life (co-authored with award-winning journalist Carl Zimmer, Macmillan Publishing, 3rd edition 2019), is presently adopted by more than 250 universities and colleges.  His research has been featured in The New York Times, National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Science Friday, and YouTube’s SciShow, and he recently starred in documentaries about his work on BBC (Nature’s Wildest Weapons) and NOVA (Extreme Animal Weapons). His first narrative nonfiction book for young adults, Beetle Battles: One Scientist’s Journey of Adventure and Discovery (Roaring Brook Press) appeared on shelves in 2020.