Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures
For centuries, parasites have lived in nightmares, horror stories, and in the darkest shadows of science. Now award-winning writer Carl Zimmer takes us on a fantastic voyage into the secret parasite universe we actually live in but haven't recognized. He reveals not only that parasites are the most successful life-forms on Earth, but that they triggered the development of...more
Let me tell you, there are some crazy creatures out there. I'm going to gloss over the hundreds of thousands of species of tapeworms and parasitic wasps and go to the really crazy ones. Like Cymothoa exigua, a crustacean that replaces a fish's tongue, or Sacculina, a barnacle-like parasite that uses a crab like a puppet. And that's just the tip of ...more
On the other hand the book is utterly fascinating, and it illustrates with stunning clarity some of the endless conceits and machinations of nature. I am tempted to say "intelligence" of nature, because this level complexity and dove-taili ...more
So, naturally a book dedicated to parasites was something I wanted to pick up.
It was surprisingly narrative, and he told several stories of his life, some of which pulled on your heart strings. The book opens with a story when he was visiting a hospital full of kids suffering from "sleeping sickne ...more
Here is an example: a parasitic wasp, Cotesia congregata, lays eggs in the tobacco hornworms. To help her children fight the immune system of the host, which would otherwise mummify them, she delivers th ...more
Parasitism is a complex and prevailing life form on Earth. Before reading this book, I used to think of parasites as simple, passive, useless and even harmful creatures. Carl Zimmer pointed out that I was totally wrong about them. To start with, parasites are not simple. In fact, their life cycles are very complicated, circulating through different hosts and changing their appearances and ...more
If you don't like science, don't like gross things, and don't like thinking about what might already be living inside your body, this really isn't the book for you. It's just going to make you sad, and there are books that wouldn't make you sad (and which include less viscera).
Early in the book we learn just how diverse a group parasites are. Most people when they hear parasites mentioned might picture tapeworms or perhaps som ...more
This tim ...more
The first chapter had me entirely grossed out. Did I really want to read a book describing the disgusting things a parasite can do to my body? But then Carl Zimmer took it from the close to home sickness parasites can inflict on a human body to a fascinating journey into the world of parasites - what they are, where they come from, where we find them, how they evolved and adapt to their chosen niche, the fine balance between getting the most out of their host ...more
Parasites might have been the defining factor in the direction evolution took us.
One cool thing was the idea of cyclic generations. Instead of each generation being the same as the previous they would cycle through three or four different "creatures" before returning to the start. Weird.
Another cool idea. Speciation through parasitation. There's your divided environment.
"The problem comes down to the fa ...more
I'm always reading, so I h ...more
The book starts by looking at the history of how parasites were seen by us. Dismissed as 'degenerate' organisms for much of history, is it only now that we are learning how sophisticated and advanced parasites really are.
The book then covers how parasites invade their hosts, showing that by sensing the env ...more
Most amazing of all, however, is that this is actually an important book, such that if you are not at least somewhat conversant with its contents then you simply can't properly lay claim to ...more
Carl Zimmer is a f ...more