Posted on January 17, 2008 Comments (7)
Parasite Rex is a great book by Carl Zimmer (one of the bloggers listed in the Curious Cat directory of science blogs). This is the first book read as part of my specific plan to read more about bacteria, cells, virus, genes and the like.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing this blog is that I have focused much more on cool things I read. And over time the amazing things I posted about related to these topics made me realize I should put some focused effort to reading more on these topics. Some of the posts that sparked that idea: Tracking the Ecosystem Within Us – Inner Life of a Cell: Full Version – Where Bacteria Get Their Genes, People Have More Bacterial Cells than Human Cells, Biological Molecular Motors – Energy Efficiency of Digestion – Old Viruses Resurrected Through DNA – Midichloria mitochondrii – Microbes – Using Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells – How Bacteria Nearly Destroyed All Life – New Understanding of Human DNA – Soil Could Shed Light on Antibiotic Resistance – Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteria
Parasite Rex was a great place to start. Carl Zimmer is a great writer, and the details on how many parasites there are and how interconnected those parasites are to living systems and how that has affected, and is affecting, us is amazing. And the next book I am reading is also fantastic: Good Germs, Bad Germs. Here is one small example from Parasite Rex, page 196-7:
Malaria is a parasite. One of the amazing things with repeated examples in the book were parasites that seemed to have extremely complicated life cycles (that don’t seem like a great strategy to prosper but obviously work). Where they grow in one life form (an insect or mammal or whatever) but must leave that life form for some other specific life form for the next stage in life (they cannot have descendants without doing so…). Seems like a crazy way to evolve but it happens over and over again.
And many of them, evolved to induce behavior in the first host to make it likely the parasite gets into the next needed host. This phenomenon is one we wrote about (and one of those batch that sparked my quest to learn more about all these related areas): Cats Control Rats … With Parasites.
Here is another similar example (though in this case the parasite just wants to be spread by a bird not take the bird on as the next host) I ran across today: Ant parasite turns host into ripe red berry, biologists discover. This stuff is amazing.