From killer snails to electric catfish, to spitting spiders and even venomous platypus, biologist and researcher Dr. Oné Pagán, a West Chester University professor, details in humorous and dramatic ways the bizarre and fantastic manner that organisms fight to live despite all odds in his latest book, Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life.
Called a “love letter to science,” Pagán’s scientific book explores how a variety of organisms’ defense mechanisms may just help humans learn some new and critical survival techniques as the reality of resistant bacteria looms on Earth.
His writing fascinates, intrigues, and educates a captivated lay-audience.
In one example, Pagán details how sting-resistant animals like some sea slugs and flatworms fend off jellyfish and related organisms. As jellyfish stings are a major public health concern in many parts of the world for approximately 150 million people, Pagán contends that slugs and worms may actually provide viable solutions to the increasing problem.
“We know that all life on Earth is related,” he said. “This similarity makes humans sensitive to many toxins ‘intended’ to kill other species. For example, it is very unlikely that we humans are the food source of rattlesnakes, wasps, or even Australian funnel-web spiders, but their venom can be fatal to us all the same.”
In his book, Pagán celebrates the intelligence of the natural world. He explains the uncanny visual capacity of the mantis shrimp that rivals and far exceeds human abilities, as well as the collective intelligence of ants that allows them to communicate all-out battle on competing colonies.
The chance for survival in the biological world may just boil down to collaboration.
“Life only occurs when inanimate molecules cooperate with each other,” he said. “If life is ever going to understand itself … it is up to us as sentient beings to throw light onto what exactly life is, and how we can get to it from nonlife. Solving this puzzle will allow us to understand ourselves and the life around us a little more, perhaps – and hopefully – for the better.”