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

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
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M 50x66
's review
Apr 24, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: biology

Normally we think of parasites as degenerate lifeforms that break in, mooch off of us, and are nuisances at best, and deadly at worst. This book will give you a greater respect for these horrible creatures. The author engagingly tells the stories of parasite, how they live, and the unique (and dare we say important?) role they play in the ecosystem.

For me the most impressive parts were the descriptions of the adaptations parasites have in order to live inside another host. Some can manipulate the nervous system and behavior of their host. Some even can manipulate the immune system in order to do its bidding. Many of them are adapted to live out their life cycle in multiple species. Far from being degenerates, parasites are highly specialized and, well, very good at what they do.

My favorite aspect of the writing is how the author shows the process of hypothesis, experiment, and verification. The chapters read like scientific detective stories; very engaging, inviting the reader to try to figure out the answer before it's revealed. Sometimes the scientists find what they are looking for, sometimes they hit a dead end. And because this is real life, the answer often turns out to be far more surprising and complicated than anyone suspected.

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