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Good Reads  Evolutionary Biology  Evolution

Bite An Incisive History of Teeth, from Hagfish to Humans

Popular Science Coming Soon
By: Bill Schutt(Author)
256 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books
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  • Bite ISBN: 9781643751788 Hardback Aug 2024 Available for pre-order
Price: £32.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

In Bite, Bill Schutt makes a surprising It is teeth that are responsible for the long-term success of vertebrates, those creatures who have a backbone, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, dinosaurs, mammals – and us. An evolutionary zoologist at the American Museum of Natural History, Schutt knows a thing or two about evolution and he tells this tale of teeth and their importance with his usual combination of hard science, fascinating trivia, and his signature witty delivery.

The appearance of teeth, roughly half a billion years ago, was an adaptation that allowed myriad forms of vertebrates to chow down in pretty much every conceivable environment – from sun-torched deserts to rainforests teeming with thousands of species of animals and plants. From an evolutionary standpoint, species with teeth could eat things that potential competitors couldn't. For example, Neanderthals and early modern humans used their teeth as tools, to soften tough fibres and animal hides, and vampire bats use their razor-sharp teeth to feed on a widespread but generally untappable blood. And it's not just food – or blood. Teeth, which include tusks and fangs, played – and still play – a crucial role as defensive weapons. Glimpsing the upper canines of snarling dogs or baboons is all it takes to know that teeth are an efficient means of expressing strength, dominance, and aggression, while human teeth project information about social status and moral character. It's doubtful, for instance, that George Washington would have been elected if he didn't have false teeth.

Bite is popular science at its best, filled not just with fun facts, but also with vital and illuminating context. As Schutt explains, so much of what we know about evolution on this planet has come from the study of fossilized teeth, which have provided information not only about ancient diets and health but, famine, war, disease, and starvation – which in turn might help us through our current climate crisis.

Customer Reviews


Bill Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and author of six nonfiction and fiction books, including Pump: A Natural History of the Heart and the New York Times Editor's Choice, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. Recently retired from his post as professor of biology at LIU Post, he is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has studied bats all over the world. His research has been featured in Natural History magazine as well as in the New York Times, Newsday, the Economist, and Discover.

Popular Science Coming Soon
By: Bill Schutt(Author)
256 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Media reviews

"Who knew hagfish could be so interesting? Bite ranges across millions of years of evolution as Schutt explores the surprising importance of these stony nuggets inhabiting the mouths of animals. His writing is a mélange of science, history, and humor, as delightful to read as it is informative. Including a cast of quirky scientists as well as sharks, narwals and even George Washington, Schutt makes it all very accessible."
–  Darrin Lunde, author of The Naturalist

"Bite is a comprehensive jaunt through comparative biology, history, and popular culture regarding those critical itty bits. Worth sinking your teeth into."
– Roy A. Meals, MD, author of Bones and Muscle

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