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- Brandi Janosky - inside the binderThe Avery binder has been a real life saver when it comes to organization. While existing within its comfy vinyl covers may seem like a chore it has kept my daily interactions with others to a bare minimum. The only time I step outside of its three ring frame is when it is completely necessary (putting on lipstick, buying shoes, etc.). I no longer need to concern myself with trivialities like my single motherhood promoting hand gun violence. At long last an enduring answer to my fragile mind! Thank you Avery binder!
- Bonam Pak - 4.5 Stars for Raising Questions I Felt Better Once Having Remained Ignorant About, But Am Glad That ChangedI read the 2001 paperback of the 2000 book. It is very well written, which can't be said about all books on the topic. It is clear, at times funny, macabre, eye-opening, repulsive due to topic, fascinating and thought provoking.
Parasites outnumber other forms of life 4:1, are much more ubiquitous than commonly thought, have been essential for evolution and have directly influenced human DNA. (Not even considering mitochondria getting integrated in most forms of life.) Parasites make it necessary to revise the tree of life into a bush of many merging branches. Human cells within the average human are outnumbered by a factor of ten by non-human cells. Getting knowledgable about parasites is much more important a topic than the obvious peculiar yuk effect. Though I promise you that this book will fulfill the latter to the fullest as well.
I thought I knew a bit about parasites. For example those wasps which lay eggs in other invertebrates. To begin with, I didn't know that there were some 200,000 parasitic wasp species out there. I had also no idea, how EXACTLY some of them work. Like the species, whose two eggs, one female, one male, subdivide in the host, to produce ever more eggs, with the females developing into different classes of maggots, such as the soldier maggots whose only job it is to kill other parasitic wasps' maggots in the host - and all but one of the male siblings. Or that the social parasite, the cuckoo baby is able to mimic the sound of a CHOIR of eight singing host bird babies and the sign stimulus of as many youngsters in the nest to the parents' eyes. (Though the book doesn't mention that some birds cannot be fooled anyway and depose of the cuckoo (egg) and also doesn't mention that the near-by cuckoo parents may retaliate by killing all the hosts' surviving kids...) Or that there is something like plant bacteria, not as in bacteria of plants, but as in green bacteria. Being an essential part (originally parasite) of the parasite named "bad-air" aka malaria.
The book answers even the nagging question, wether there are homosexual parasites. (I wondered that ever since I read Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions) about mammals and birds.) The flukes mentioned here are the first parasites I encountered (as in READING about them), which act homosexual in a benign way. To each other that is. (Other parasites - not mentioned in this book - may act homosexual in very twisted ways to procreate to the detriment of same-sex competitors.) Thinking about it: Shouldn't homosexual parasites of the former kind be our favorite parasites, if there is such a thing, because presumably they do NOT procreate, as in: in us? The book sure doesn't answer the question wether there are homosexual solidarity activists like there are for maltreated homosexual zoo animals.
Talking about questions I never knew existed: The book is full of them. Sticking with the homosexual topic, there's a fungus, which TURNS flies into necrophiliac homosexuals. As much as another parasite doesn't only fool crabs into believing that their attached parasite babies are crab babies to care for, but fooling male crabs to believe they themselves are females all of the sudden in order to (be able to) do that to begin with. If you ever sought a flabbergasting book, this will be it. Some animals have a bodyguard class against parasites (ants), others employ blind snakes as maids to free the nest of parasites (owls). And how much DNA itself can get parasitic in various ways sure wasn't on my radar of existing topics.
The book talks about allergies caused by the modern lack of parasites, complete fusions of life, the parasitic origin of sexuality, and that humans may be considered as parasites in the gaia concept. As stupid parasites that is, which are those defined who kill their host. Some readers may be a little lost with this spirituality capping ending of the book. As a Rasta, personally, I am not. As such, I was surprised to find welcome information on the spread of parasites through colonialism. Not only via the conquerors' imported bugs and slavery's transmission, but via relocating cattle within Africa. And via forcing the indiginous populations to live and work in areas unsuited for humans and/or their cattle. All of that having caused most severe and lethal epidemics. The Western apologetic lore has it that their colonial doctors brought healing power to their conquered new lands. (The book doesn't mention that some vaccines were necessary, because the diseases had been imported in the first place and that some FORCED cattle vaccinations occasionally caused more deaths in livestock than the diseases themselves, sometimes intended, sometimes not.) In today's shifted colonial world, the book warns (indirectly) against huge dams, which dramatically expand standing water, which in turn dramatically expands the habitat of dangerous to human parasite carrying snails. In case you are wondering how dams are colonial, please read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I find it also interesting to read that Konrad Lorenz didn't change his views of parasitism in the Nazi sort of way at all - even not a few days before his death in 1989. As celebrated as he gets in Western school books, it is usually not known (and not elaborated in this book) that he fully embraced the Nazi party and became an eager member immediately after Hitler marched into Austria. On a more enlightening subject around parasites, I didn't consider before I read this book that human (pre-)history can be reconstructed via tapeworms.
I have a little bit of criticism. Some things are sketchily mentioned only. There is a parasite which eats the flesh of the human face. Ok, horrid. But if I think about it after the initial impulse to turn the page immediately: How exactly do I have to imagine that? What consequences does this have? How is that livable? No answers in this book. The captions of the FEW black and white pictures on 16 pages in the middle of the book are sometimes not that precise. With that parasite, which replaces a fish's tongue, the caption is all we will ever read in this book about that parasite. How does it eat the tongue, i.e. getting into the mouth? How does the parasite help the fish grabbing food? How does the parasite mate? Does it cause infected fish to french kiss or what? If I want to research that, I would have appreciated the parasite's name. Or the name of the host. The caption only says a crustacean in a fish. Wow, that's precise! I don't even know, where on this planet I should look into a fish's mouth before eating it. Well, I was able to find some answers elsewhere nevertheless: The parasite is called Cymothoa exigua, lives in California and only in the mouths of Lutjanus guttatus aka spotted rose snapper. The parasite crawls under the tongue and severes its blood supply in a vampiric manner, causing the tongue to wither away to be replaced by the growing tongue with eyes. I still don't know how it procreates, so anybody who does know, please leave a comment with source. Five years after the book had been written, the first fish with second tongue was found in EU waters (in the UK). The book may not be that incredibly up to date, with some issues still pending when written. For example on the eradication of some parasites. As of 2008 some more countries could be added to the list of eradicated guinea worms, but with other countries still lacking behind.
The Hamilton-Zuk theory got its own book by Marlene Zuk herself: Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are, itself a great book about parasites, with little overlap. And if, it goes more in-depth, like with the fungus which attacks insects. If you like a coffee table book of the nasty treat, in which you can also read, which (utterly unexpected!) places in your household are the most yukky ones, "enjoy" the Canadian Human Wildlife: The Life That Lives on Us. If you are interested in more symbiotic body roomies, largely restricted to bacteria and in a systematic text book presentation, read the rather dry Microbial Inhabitants of Humans: Their Ecology and Role in Health and Disease. Much more grippingly written is Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World by a science journalist. Which is also about the history if antibiotic treatments and their failure due to mounting resistance. About former parasites, today our energy source and DNA family tree provider, mitochondria, read Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life. A more general biological approach of symbiosis is Liaisons of Life: From Hornworts to Hippos--How the Unassuming Microbe has Driven Evolution. A theoretic re-thinking, including reconstructing taxonomy and theories about gaia, read Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution.
- Roz Levine - Janet Evanovich has done it againStephanie Plum and the whole gang are back and better than ever. What fun it is to spend time with these characters. No matter how slowly you try to read this book, it's over way too soon and then you have to wait another year for the next one. Evanovich gives you a good mystery, interesting, wacky characters and scenes that have you laughing out loud. Do yourself a favor, start with One for the Money and read them all.