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March 11, 2012

The Wild Life of Our Bodies

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are TodayThe Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A delightful exploration of research around the evolution of the human body contrasted with how technological evolution maybe causing humans more harm than good. The book looks at the role of parasites in our gut, a new line of thinking about the purpose of the appendix, the impact of the introduction of agriculture, how our flight or fight response maybe harming us, and why humans lack hair. For each theme the author weaves a narrative of current research, his own observations, and anecdotal stories written with cliff hanger transitions. I found the first half of the book covering parasites, the appendix, and agriculture to be much better written and cohesive than the latter half which seemed to focus more on stories than science and didn't fit the wild life premise as well. Overall the writing is enjoyable, approachable, and presents many new theories and thoughts about our growing understanding of the evolution of the human body.



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My notes:

  • The clean living revolution robbed us of helpful qualities and maybe making us worse [xiv]
  • Tim White discovered Ardi a 4.4 million year old human-like fossil [6]
  • We are human because we chose to try to take control [8]
  • 400 named diseases common to humans [20]
  • Pronghorn's speed due to extinct American cheetah [28]
  • We live in a time of ghosts [29]
  • Reintroduced gut parasites led to better patients [38]
  • Immune system has two types one for viruses and bacteria and the other nematodes and parasites [41]
  • Humans co-evolved to need parasites [44]
  • Our bodies and immune system evolved to work best when other species lived on us [57]
  • Medical research often finds something that helps before understanding how [63]
  • 1000 plus microbes in gut that we have been unable to culture outside of it [69]
  • Microbes in your gut help produce 30% more calories [80]
  • Appendix filled with immune tissues, antibodies, and bacteria [97]
  • Appendix house for bacteria to recolonize gut [98]
  • IgA helps gut bacteria grow 15x faster [103]
  • Selective sweeps favoring good genes where others die off [121]
  • 9-10K years ago humans gene for lactose production was key [123]
  • 75% of consumed food comes from 6 plants and 1 animal [128]
  • 25% lactose intolerant, 40-50%lactose challenged [132]
  • fat=stay warm, keep from starving [134]
  • 1/3 of all languages in Africa [137]
  • Humans have long been the prey [147]
  • Natural birth at night most common [151]
  • Anxiety disorder caused by misplaced fear [161]
  • Prey respond to predator's weakness [173]
  • Better vision tied to area with more snakes [175]
  • Sweet, salty, bitter, umami (savory), sour taste buds [183]
  • Body has infinite demand for sugar [188]
  • Taste buds irrational in modern context [190]
  • Taste bugs in gut bypass conscious brain [194]
  • Skin variety outgrowth of loss of hair [205]
  • Sedentary lifestyle of humans led to change in hair [211]
  • Malaria and sickle cell anemia or fava bean anemia [215]
  • Social and sedentary increase disease risk [220]
  • Correlation between disease areas and xenophobia [224]
  • Humans farm away from where they live [245]
  • Cliff trees oldest on earth [254]
  • Half of city life comes from cliffs [256]

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