Friday, June 09, 2017

Venomous by Christie Wilcox

When I was reading Spirals in Time about seashells and the creatures that build them, I learned about cone snails that have venom so deadly they can hunt fish, or kill an unwary diver. Not long after, Venomous was published and I knew I had to learn more.

The most fascinating chapter in Venomous, for me at least, was about vampires. What do all blood suckers, from mosquitoes to leeches to bats, have in common? “It is one thing to kill your prey, but quite another to get close to it, taste its precious lifeblood, and escape unnoticed.” After all, these animals are all much smaller than the ones they feed upon. They need to inject an anesthetic so their prey is not alerted by pain. And they need something to prevent clotting. Thus the venoms they use have those effects, and that means they have medical potential. No wonder the subtitle of the book is, “How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry.”

Wilcox packs a lot of science and some hair-raising adventures into Venomous. She hunted deadly caterpillars in Brazil and bullet ants in the Amazon, got pricked by a sea urchin in Hawaii, and almost got too friendly with a Komodo dragon. If you are inclined to that sort of adventure, you may want to check out A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants by Steven Foster and Roger A. Caras. And watch where you put your fingers!

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL

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