Life Everlasting

The Animal Way of Death
Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2012. c.256p. illus. ISBN 9780547752662. $25. SCI
Biologist Heinrich follows up Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, an excellent study of wild birds, with this book. While the title conjures a religious tone, the work is actually a careful examination of biological recycling, the breaking down and reuse of the dead bodies of animals and plants. Through personal examination and research, Heinrich finds that "We come from and return to incomparably amazing plants and animals. Even while we are alive, our wastes are recycled directly into beetles, grass, and trees, which are recycled further into bees and butterflies and on to flycatchers, finches, and hawks, and back into grass and on into deer, cows, goats, and us." He studies beetles, birds, worms, fungi, and deep-sea scavengers to see how biological materials find their way back into the "web of life." He proposes that not all animals killed on the road be buried, since that flesh can be used productively by myriad creatures, and even questions the practice of permanent coffin-based human interments.
VERDICT Heinrich writes with insight in entertaining prose that still manages to be scientific. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/11.]
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