Engaging, useful account of the similarities between humans and other animals.

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ZOOBIQUITY

WHAT ANIMALS CAN TEACH US ABOUT HEALTH AND THE SCIENCE OF HEALING

Natterson-Horowitz (Cardiology/UCLA School of Medicine) and former Atlantic Monthly editor Bowers investigate the correlation between human and animal health issues.

Cancer, heart attacks, obesity and STDs are afflictions most people associate with humans. However, the authors demonstrate that these are also common ailments in the animal world. Fascinated with the health connection between animals and humans, the authors coin the term "zoobiquity," which means the “connecting, species-spanning approach to the diagnostic and therapeutic puzzles of clinical medicine.” By accepting our common genetic backgrounds, the authors propose an increase in the exchange of medical information between doctors and veterinarians, as human behavior parallels that of animals in many different arenas. Masturbation, homosexuality and rape are common in the animal world. The "feather-picking disorder" of birds plucking feathers until they bleed is similar to the "cutting" teenage girls administer to themselves. Anorexia can be linked to the nervous behaviors of our "animal forebears,” who lived with the constant fear of not having enough to eat, or of being eaten. The wild behavior of some adolescent males mimics the impulsive antics of still-maturing rats and primates. Sudden noises or traumatic accidents and natural disasters cause an uptick in cardiomyopathy in humans and animals, even if there is no evidence of heart disease in either species. Whether discussing koala bears with chlamydia, stallions with performance dysfunction, or Tasmanian wallabies intoxicated on poppy sap, the authors provide solid evidence that humans are not as far removed from the rest of the natural world as we might have thought.

Engaging, useful account of the similarities between humans and other animals.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-59348-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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