Explore the natural history of cannibalism in nature and throughout history in this fascinating and macabre new book by Bill Schutt.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt (Algonquin Books, 2017)
In his new book, author Bill Schutt explores some of the most bizarre examples of cannibalism throughout nature and history, ranging from the infamous Donner Party to spiders who feed themselves to their young. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History bites into topics like sexual cannibalism, kuru and Mad Cow Disease, cannibalism in the Bible, mummy powder for medicinal purposes, and the consumption of human placenta.
From the book description:
For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism–the role it plays in evolution as well as human history–is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.
Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species–including our own.
Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History is available right here.