TITLE: The Amoeba in the Room - Lives of the Microbes
AUTHOR: Nicholas P. Money
DATE PUBLISHED: 2014
The Amoeba in the Room is a lovely high-level overview and review of microbes (viruses, fungi, bacteria, archae, protists) and their importance in the biosphere.
The author does include some scientific terminology, but nothing that is too complicated with a bit of grey-matter application. Professor Money’s love of nature and microbes shines through in the text, with the addition of humorous and interesting ways of looking at the mundane.
“To approach a meaningful picture of marine biology, we need to put aside the things studied by zoologists. A sushi bar to end all sushi bars will foster the necessary thought experiment. Every morsel of marine muscle must be eaten in the last supper: all the hagfish, lampreys, sharks, rays and bony fish are diced, rolled in sticky rice, wrapped in seaweed, kissed with soy sauce, and swallowed; the red meat from whales, dolphins, manatees, and walruses works well as sashimi and sea turtles make soup; all the oysters slip down with the assistance of cold white wine, all the squid are crunched calamaried; orange sea urchin gonads make a sloppy topping for sushi rolls and jellyfish can be fried. Crabs ad lobsters are dispatched after boiling, along with the related sea spiders, barnacles, and fish lice. This is a lot of food: fish, great whales, and Antarctic krill alone weigh more than 1 000 million tons. That leaves the sponges and comb jellies, penis worms and other worms, and exotics like mud dragons, but most the gustatory labor is over and the ocean is much clearer for it. Now we can turn our full attention to the 90% of living things in the sea that cannot be seen without a microscope.”
The book is organized by environment, with chapters examining marine microbes, other water and soil microbes, airborne microbes, extreme-living microbes and those microbes that make the human body their home. The author makes the case that the biological action of the earth is not in the visible fauna but in the microbes. He also suggests that conservation should focus on habitats rather than a collection of animals. Professor Money argues for nothing less than a revolution in our perception of the living world: the animals and plants we see are just froth on a vast ocean of single-celled protists, bacteria, and viruses that constitute most of life on earth.
Professor Money’s book was an enjoyable and informative exploration of the astonishing extent of the microbial world and the vast swathes of biological diversity that are now becoming recognized using molecular methods.
OTHER RECOMMENDED MICROBIAL BOOKS:
- -March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham, Roberto Kolter
- -The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery, Anne Biklé
- -I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
- -Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane
- -Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy
- -The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn
- -Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna
- -The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds by John Tyler Bonner
- -Life's Engines: How Microbes made the Earth Habitable by Paul G. Falkowski
- -Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today by David P. Clark
- -Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life by David W. Wolfe
- -Spillover: Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen
- -The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin
- -The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Germs Threatens Us All by Elinor Levy, Mark Fischetti
- -An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections by Ron Barrett, George Armelagos
- Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Trudy M. Wassenaar
- -Virolution by Frank Ryan
- -Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
- -This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe