Yael's Reviews > Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
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's review
Nov 16, 2008

it was amazing

Forget lions and tigers and bears, oh my -- the most dangerous creatures on Earth are parasites, from all viruses, visible only by aid of an electron microscope and completely dependent on the cells of macroscopic creatures for their reproduction, the many bacteria who chow down on host tissues and, like Staphlococcus aureas, frequently make a royal hash of their host's bodies and lives, and similar microscopic beasties, to naked-eye visible horrors that take over the brains of their hosts and drive them the way we drive a car to carry out behaviors that further the parasite's goals, but not the poor host's, or gobble up the host's tongue and take the place of that tongue to eat bits of food that fall from the host's now tasteless meals. The author explores the complex, horrifying world of worms, protozoa, and other terrifying critters that pose daunting health problems for humans, their pets and stock animals and cultivars, and wild organisms around the world. Such creatures are subtle, challenging predators on their hosts -- including us, among countless others -- and the author provides an outstanding (and horripilating) introduction to them. Parasites, like pathogenic microbes, are the true drivers of evolution: we live at best only an arm's length from these unseen creatures that control our lives. *Don't* introduce this book into casual or formal dinner conversation -- the results are likely to be catastrophic if you do, and they'll never invite you back again . . . unless your, ah, hosts are parasitologists, whose spouses long ago gave up on having dinner with them, for exactly that reason. ;-)

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