Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures

Published By: Crown

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Nature

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Reviewed by Muhammed Hassanali

The mention of sanguivores generally evokes a repulsive response from most of us. The subject matter of Dark Banquet is precisely these creatures that stroke our natural fears. The book is not purely a scientific text, but a mélange of science, scientific history and personal anecdotes. The first part takes readers from Trinidad to Brazil, and along the journey, one learns about vampire bats. With over eleven hundred bat species, only three consume blood. One specie, Trinidadian white-winged vampire bat, only feeds on the blood of chickens, and does so by imitating the behavior of chicks to get to its prey).

The second part opens by taking the reader back to George Washington’s last days, and suggests that the elder statesman may have bleed to death by doctors employing bloodletting (a common treatment during the day). One learns that bloodletting was common until the early twentieth century! In this section one learns about the role blood plays in our bodies. One is also treated to ancient and modern medical techniques that use blood. Examples of these include using leeches to draw blood in ancient times and using the natural chemicals from these creatures as anti-coagulants (or blood thinners) in contemporary times.

The third part introduces the reader to a host of other sanguivores such as the bed bug, tick, mosquito, chigger, mite, hookworm, assassin bug, vampire finch, and candiru (blood-sucking fish found in the Amazon River). One learns of the diseases they carry (bubonic plague, rabies, scrub typhus, tick vectors) and of the psychological condition “in which the victim believes that tiny biting or bloodsucking creatures are crawling over his or her body.”

This book makes a passionate appeal that these creatures are worthy of study, and even worthy of conservation! It brings into focus the benefits that our ecology derives from their presence, and the uses these creatures have in contemporary medicine and research.

Scientific discussion is kept to a minimum and the writing style is witty and fluid. The illustrations do not have captions, but this could be because I have is an uncorrected proof and the captions are included in the actual publication.

Armchair Interviews says: Zoologist Bill Schutt has studied bats in Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, Trinidad, and the United States.

Author’s Web site: http://www.DarkBanquet.com

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