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Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites that Make Us Who We Are
by Marlene Zuk

Published by Harcourt

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Did You Know . . . 

  • that sufferers from some intestinal diseases can find relief by eating worms?
  • that households that use antibacterial products end up with just as many colds and cases of the flu as those who don't?
  • that hairlessness in humans may have evolved because it gave parasites fewer places to hide?
  • that early exposure to germs actually helps to protect us against food allergies and asthma?

We treat disease as our enemy, and germs and infections as things we battle. But what if we've been giving them a bum rap? In this witty, engaging book, evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk makes us rethink our instincts as she argues that disease is our partner, not our foe.

From the earliest days of life on earth, when parasites spurred the creation of complex life forms, disease has evolved alongside us, becoming not only natural but essential to our health. Drawing on the latest research and most unusual studies, Zuk explains the role of disease in answering a fascinating range of questions: Why do men die younger than women? Why are we attracted to our mates? Why does your average male bird not have a penis? Why do we -- as well as insects, birds, pigs, cows, goats, and even plants -- get STDs? Why do vultures have yellow heads and roosters have red wattles? Why do we have sex at all, rather than simply splitting off copies of ourselves like certain geckoes do? And how is our obsession with cleanliness making us sicker?

Using her own work on sexual selection as well as an amazing sampling of stories from the natural world, Zuk makes us reconsider the fearful parasite.

pub date: 2007-04-02 | hardcover | 9780151012251