UM Professor’s ‘Animal Weapons’ Book Earns Major National Award

October 01, 2015

MISSOULA – A book written by Douglas Emlen, an acclaimed University of Montana evolutionary biologist, has been awarded the 2015 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.

Emlen officially will receive the award for his book “Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle” and a $10,000 prize at a gala dinner Dec. 4 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The award is presented by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. ­Since 1959, the group has presented the award to recognize outstanding contributions by scientists to the literature of science. Past book winners include the likes of “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond, which also won the Pulitzer Prize.

“I worked long hours on this book, and receiving this award is a wonderful affirmation,” Emlen said. “Writing at this level, with this voice and to this audience, was the most enjoyable and meaningful thing I’ve ever done. It’s a great feeling to know you are bringing real science to the public in an entertaining and meaningful way.”

“Animal Weapons” tells the story behind the incredible weapons we see in the animal world and what they can tell us about the way humans protect ourselves. Emlen takes the reader outside the lab and deep into the forests and jungles of the world to explain the processes behind the most extreme of animal weapons.

The UM researcher also uses the evolution of these animal weapons to draw parallels to the way humans develop and employ their own weapons. “Animal Weapons” analyzes the role of camouflage, the evolution of the rifle and the structures human populations have built across different regions and eras to protect their homes and communities, among many other examples.

The book includes stunning illustrations of these concepts at work. “Animal Weapons” brings the reader the complete story of how weapons reach their most outsized, dramatic potential, and what the animal world can tell us about our own relationship with weapons.

Professor Doug Emlen and some of his research subjectsOne Phi Kappa selection panel member described the book as a “Lively, engrossing account of the arms races in animal evolution, development and ecology. Emlen is a natural storyteller and the book moves swiftly through different fields of science and military history.”

More information about the book is online at

Emlen is an internationally renowned expert on horns, antlers, claws and other animal armaments, and he frequently uses beetles as an animal model in his research. He earned his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University in 1994 and joined the UM faculty in 1996.

His many awards, honors and grants include UM’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, the E.O. Wilson Prize from the American Society of Naturalists in 2013, a Presidential Early Career Award in 2002 and the Young Investigator Prize in 1997. For more information visit


For more about Emlen and his research:

Contact: Doug Emlen, UM biology professor, 406-243-2535,