If you're an animal lover (and who isn't?), you'll love this book. Fifty Animals is full of fascinating facts and anecdotes that describe our symbiotic and other relationships with interesting creatures through time.
Do you admire your friend's bright red shirt? If so, tell her that for centuries the best and most durable red dye came from Mexico and was shipped as far away as Asia. This red dye came from thousands of insects named chochineal. It takes about 70,000 insects to make just a pound of it. Since the advent of chemical dyes, it's seldom used in textiles any longer, but it now employed as a safe colorant for food.
The lowly donkey otherwise known as ass, has a reputation for being incredibly dumb, when in fact, they are smart, very adaptable animals that have carried our heavy loads for centuries throughout the world.
The wise and majestic elephant--my favorite mammal--we unfortunately coerced into war. In fact, the sight of just one of these intelligent beasts carrying archers and slingers reportedly so terrified the defenders of early Britain that the poor Anglo-Saxons were routed by the Roman army.
For snake aficionados, the cobra (which humans have used for snake charming but no other commercial purpose) has killed millions over the millennia, but in its native India it's played an important symbolic role in both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Other than Homo sapiens can you guess which animal has changed human history the most? It's the lowly flea. Did you know that in addition to being the carrier of the plague, it's also one of the best jumpers in the natural world? By pushing off its powerful hind legs, it can jump up to 7 inches horizontally and up to 13 inches vertically--pretty good for a tiny creeter. And it uses this talent to target its human hosts.
Before I conclude, I'll also mention the model honeybee, one of the workhorses (forgive the mixed metaphor) of the world. Not only do we harvest honey and wax from its colonies, but it's also the main pollinator of much of the crops that we rely on for food. A typical colony can be between 40,000 and 100,000 individuals, which would be a nice size city for humans. Unfortunately, our honeybees are suffering now from a new and mysterious disease, colony collapse disorder, which is as deadly and serious as it sounds.
This book offers lots more to inform and entertain you, but more importantly it will give you a new perspective on everyday and exotic animals that have changed our world for both good and bad.
- Animals