Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons related to famine, burial rites, and medicine. Cannibalism has also been used as a form of terrorism and as the ultimate expression of filial piety. With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, Bill Schutt, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, takes us on a tour of the field, exploring exciting new avenues of research and investigating questions like why so many fish eat their offspring and some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why sexual cannibalism is an evolutionary advantage for certain spiders; why, until the end of the eighteenth century, British royalty regularly ate human body parts; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals.
Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath. But as climate change progresses and humans see more famine, disease, and overcrowding, biological and cultural constraints may well disappear. These are the very factors that lead to outbreaks of cannibalism--in other species and our own.
North American publisher: Algonquin (February 2017)
Audiobook publisher: Highbridge/Recorded Books
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“A clear-headed, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic—and always fascinating—compendium of one of Western culture’s strongest taboos. From the Australian redback spider to the Donner Party, Schutt examines the evolutionary purposes that eating one’s own can serve. But he goes beyond scientific explanation to show how deeply cannibalism is woven into our own history and literature.” —Cat Warren, New York Times bestselling author of What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World
“Butterflies do it. So do some toads, birds, and polar bears. Did dinosaurs do it? What about the Neanderthals? And what about us, for that matter? If you're hungry for a fun, absorbing read about which animals eat their own kind and why, read this book.” —Virginia Morell, New York Times bestselling author of Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel
“Bill Schutt’s fascinating and compulsively readable new book will amaze you.” —Ian Tattersall, Curator Emeritus, American Museum of Natural History and author of The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack and Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution
“Bill Schutt serves up a deliciously entertaining smorgasbord of scientific reality. He gives us a deeper insight into the way nature really works.” —Darrin Lunde, Museum Specialist, Smithsonian Institution, and author of The Naturalist