Some of you might remember late last year when I reviewed Frans de Waal’s fascinating look at the world of animal cognition Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? What I didn’t mention in my review is both Goodreads and Amazon suggested I follow-up de Waal’s book with another one, namely Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers’ Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health. Since I love reading about diseases how could I resist any book that proclaims the surprising similarities shared humans and animals when plagued by the same diseases. Inspired by their suggestion I easily found an available copy of Zoobiquity through my public library. To Goodreads and Amazon I say good call because I enjoyed this book.
Published in 2012, Zoobiquity is a collaboration of cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and journalist Kathryn Bowers. One day Natterson-Horowitz paid a visit to the Los Angeles Zoo to examine a monkey in the throes of heart failure. During the examination she was counseled by the attending zoologist to be careful, lest she frighten the stricken monkey thereby inducing capture myopathy. Later, the author learned capture myopathy bore a striking resemblance to Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, an affliction suffered by humans when forcibly restrained in hospitals. This commonality served as the inspiration for her and Bowers book.
Each of the book’s 12 chapters is devoted to a specific disease or disorder that’s shared by animals and humans. Before I read Zoobiquity I had no idea dinosaurs could get brain cancer or many koalas are infected with chlamydia. Nor did I know BRCA1, the genetic mutation that causes breast cancer is not only carried many jaguars but also many Jewish Ashkenazi women. While many humans engage in various acts of self-harm like cutting there are horses, dogs and birds that also engage in similar kinds of odd behavior like self-biting and hurtful overgrooming.
Zoobiquity succeeds for several reasons. One, because it’s well-written and fast-paced it’s a pleasure to read. Two, it cover a lot of ground, examining a wide array of creatures from across the animal kingdom. Three, the concept alone that humans and animals share much in common disease-wise makes for fascinating reading. I was surprisingly impressed by Zoobiquity and there’s a good chance it might make my year-end Best Nonfiction List.