The Wild Life of Our Bodies

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A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.

We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.

The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.

In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.

Curriculet Details
56 Questions
56 Annotations
3 Quizzes

In this 9th and 10th grade non-fiction digital curriculum, annotations include links to scientific vocabulary referenced in the book, images of settings described in the book and explanations of literary devices such as personification. Interactive videos support engagement and cover subjects such as personification. The Common Core aligned questions and answers address setting and main idea, along with the consequences of human interaction with nature. Our free online unit will increase student engagement with rich media annotations while supporting reading comprehension with questions and quizzes that are imbedded directly into the book.

The curriculet is being added to your library

1: The Origins of Humans and the Control of Nature

Notice that this book is a non-fiction. As you read, try to think about how the structure and author's purpose differ from a fictional novel.  
Use the "Define" feature to look up words that you do not know. Simply highlight a word and click "Define." 
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The fossil that White found was 
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In this context, "mad' means _____________. 
The image below shows the National Geographic cover that featured Ardi.  (This annotation contains an image)
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According to the author, how do our lives today compare to species that have lived before us? 
The image below shows the fossil remains of Lucy. As you read, keep in mind that scientists have to blend together significant pieces of information about the past using only these fossil fragments.  (This annotation contains an image)

2: When Good Bodies Go Bad (and Why)

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Many of the diseases the author identifies  
Visit the link below to learn more about Crohn's Disease. As your read the following paragraphs, think about why despite better hygiene and medical care, this disease has increased. (This annotation contains a link)
Crohn's disease is talked about a lot in this chapter. Watch the brief video below for more background about the disease.  (This annotation contains a video)
The image below shows a whipworm. Pay attention to how researchers begin to realize that it may be the absence of worms like these that are actually contributing to increases in diseases like Chrohn's.  (This annotation contains an image)
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According to Weinstock, what is the problem with moving to cities and increased modernity? 
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Why did changes in the pronghorn's speed occur over time? 
The image below shows a pronghorn. Reflect on how Byers saw evidence of predators while watching the pronghorns move. (This annotation contains an image)

3: The Pronghorn Principle and What Our Guts Flee

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Choose an example of a species that our bodies evolved to interact with. 
The highlighted section explains Weinstock's major claim. He found that as diseases such as Crohn's became more common, parasitic worms became more rare. He saw this as a correlation. As you read, judge the value of his claim. 
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"Rewilding the West" refers to 
The image below shows a giant Aldabran tortoise. As you read, consider why the tortoise helped restore native plants in the area they were reintroduced to.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Using Weinstock's theory as evidence, explain what diseases might not be as prevalent today if worms still existed in human bodies as they did centuries ago. 
This is a photograph of a statue of Medusa. According to Greek mythology, Medusa had hair made up of snakes. How does this imagery add meaning to the highlighted passage? (This annotation contains an image)
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The author argues that 

4: The Dirty Realities of What to Do When You Are Sick and Missing Your Worms

In this picture, Weinstock is examining a mixture of whipworms in the lab. Based on what you have read so far, do you think drinking this mixture is a good idea for people with Crohn's disease?  (This annotation contains an image)
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What does Debora Wade's decision to go to Mexico reveal about the seriousness of her condition? 
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The primary problem that Lawrence faced was 
Cameroon is a country located in the continent of Africa. The map below shows the precise location of Cameroon.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Explain how the author contrasts human bodies to machines. 
"A thumb in the levee" is a colloquialism that means it is a quick fix that doesn't solve the actual problem. Why is this an appropriate way to describe the medicine that addresses the symptoms but not the causes of Crohn's? 
Quiz #1 

5: Several Things the Gut Knows and the Brain Ignores

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The author's main argument in this section is best summed up with which of the following statements? 
DDT was found to be extremely toxic and was eventually outlawed. Prior to the discovery of the toxicity, DDT was commonly used both in and outside of homes. The advertisement below advertises DDT being used in a kitchen. (This annotation contains an image)
The image below shows a mouse that is typical of the kind used in labs to perform experiments on.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which statement best describes what the scientists discovered about antibiotics? 
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Prior to Reyniers, scientists had only attempted to 
A guinea pig (pictured below) is a rodent that is larger than a mouse, but smaller than a rabbit. Guinea pigs are often used in medical experiments along with mice and rats.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Using evidence from previous chapters of the text, what is one consequence that over-killing microbes has had on human beings? 
Louis Pasteur was prominent scientist who introduced the idea of pasteurization (hence the name) to the world. Watch his short biography below to learn more about his findings. How do recent findings regarding microbes counter Pasteur's initial ideas?  (This annotation contains a video)
The picture below shows a termite. Pay attention to how termites helped propel the research that Reyniers was doing forward.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What happened to the food that termites ate when all the microbes had been removed from their bodies? 
Fire ants can cause painful symptoms to humans if humans come into contact with them. The image below is a photograph of fire ants.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
Antibiotics added to household products  
The photograph below is an a photograph of an acacia plant. Acacia plants and ants depend on each other to thrive. As you read, pay attention to the evidence the author uses to show this dependence.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Explain why the author says that the "ants and the fungi need each other."  

6: I Need My Appendix (and So Do My Bacteria)

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. Without surgery, appendicitis is deadly.  (This annotation contains an image)
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The appendix is 
The caecum is the first part of the large intestine located below. Notice the appendix in the picture dangling below the caecum. Imagine the challenge of surgically removing the appendix given the location of the appendix and the location of the surgery.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Based on the evidence provided, the appendix probably has something to do with 
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The primary purpose of antibodies is to  
The colon is the organ responsible for removing waste from the human body. The image below shows the colon in a human body.  (This annotation contains an image)
Think about how the words "potent" and "sweet" contrast with the scene the author is describing of a room filled with human excrement.  
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Based on Bollinger's hypothesis, what consequence might people who have their appendix removed face? 

7: When Cows and Grass Domesticated Humans

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Which of the following statements is another way to say "plant species spread around the world in this way, using latrines as stepping-stones"? 
The phrase "pregnant with seed" is an example of personification. Watch the short video below for a refresher on this literary device.  (This annotation contains a video)
This is a cassava root. This starch is a staple of many diets in South American and Africa.  (This annotation contains an image)
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One effect of transitioning from hunter- gatherers to an agricultural lifestyle was 
This is an auroch. What about this picture makes you think that this animal is related to the modern day cow?  (This annotation contains an image)
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The "deal" that was about to be made between the auroch and humans refers to  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
Early humans could not 
Some people are "lactose-intolerant." This means that they cannot eat dairy products without experiencing diarrhea and gas. As you read the next few pages, think about what this reveals about their ancestors. 
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The ability to digest _______ illustrates a significant genetic change. 
"Manioc" is another name for the root "cassava." Earlier, the author refers to the root as "cassava." 

8: So Who Cares If Your Ancestors Sucked Milk from Aurochsen?

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From this detail, we can infer that the average American eats little ___________. 
The photograph below is a picture of quinoa. Quinoa is a crop that has become more popular as a replacement for wheat and rice.  (This annotation contains an image)
To learn more about what the author means when he asks whether humans are more like grizzlies or bees, click the link below. The link provides details about what grizzlies do when they hibernate.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Which of the following diseases is the result of genes that may have been useful when humans were hunter-gatherers? 

9: We Were Hunted, Which Is Why All of Us Are Afraid Some of the Time and Some of Us Are Afraid All of the Time

Recall that pronghorn (pictured below) are a type of animal similar to an antelope or deer. (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
How does the author's use of the phrase "pulled her as if she were a lamb" give the reader a sense of Bakhul's size? 
Look at the image of San Bushmen cave paintings below. What can researchers learn about a society's fears and values from looking at cave paintings like these?  (This annotation contains an image)
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What about humans made them easy prey to animal predators?  
This is a photograph of a black-and-white colobus monkey.  (This annotation contains an image)
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_____________ is released in response to fear.  

10: From Flight to Fight

The photograph below shows Jim Corbett with a tiger that he killed in India. How does this image contrast to today's view regarding tigers?  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
Corbett's heightened awareness is due to ________________. 
Watch the brief documentary about Jim Corbett below.  (This annotation contains a video)
The amygdala is illustrated in the picture below. Even though we no longer face predators on a daily basis, the amygdala still modulates our body's response as if we did. Pay attention to how the author explains that this impacts humans today.  (This annotation contains an image)
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According to the author, why do humans enjoy scary movies and books? 
Quiz #2 

11: Vermeij's Law of Evolutionary Consequences and How Snakes Made the World

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Using evidence from previous chapters, what are some examples of how humans overreacted to microbes?  
This is a puff adder snake. When you look at this image, do you have a reaction similar to Lynne Isbell's? (This annotation contains an image)
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Isbell's theory is best summarized in which of the following statements? 
Pay attention to how Vermeij uses shells to reconstruct evolutionary history.  
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Isbell found that primates who had better vision 
Madagascar is an island located near the southeast corner of Africa. It is highlighted in red below.  (This annotation contains an image)
The picture below shows a lemur. Why does the author compare Vermeij to lemurs? (This annotation contains an image)
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The author argues that our _________ had a significant impact on the world. 

12: Choosing Who Lives

The image below illustrates taste buds on the tongue.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Cats are unable to taste __________ flavors. 
This is a honeyguide. As you read, consider why this bird is no longer used by humans to locate beehives.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Was human evolution changed once sugarcane began to be grown in large amounts? Why or why not? 
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From the evidence provided, we can infer that taste buds 
The image below shows a dung beetle rolling together a ball of excrement. To the dung beetle, this ball would have to emit an attractive smell.  (This annotation contains an image)
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People with ____________ are not aware of seeing. 
Consider the question the author poses in the highlighted sentence. What evidence has the author presented to support the idea that subconscious parts of the brain may be wired to react in specific ways to certain stimuli? 

13: How Lice and Ticks (and Their Pathogens) Made Us Naked and Gave Us Skin Cancer

The image below is an artist's representation of a Neanderthal.  (This annotation contains an image)
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How did the varieties in skin color develop? 
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What is one consequence of hairlessness? 
The picture below shows a hairless dog. Pay attention the reasons why the author says that there are so few hairless mammals.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here is a photograph of a New Guinean man wearing traditional clothing.  (This annotation contains an image)
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How did the rise of agriculture lead to the rise in malaria? 

14: How the Pathogens That Made Us Naked Also Made Us Xenophobic, Collectivist, and Disgusted

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More pathogens developed once 
A mosquito (pictured below) spreads malaria between humans. What do mosquitoes need to survive and why are they rare in cold and dry places?  (This annotation contains an image)
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What is the relationship between deadly diseases and xenophobia? (Use the "Define" feature to look up xenophobia prior to answering this question.  
Think about the implications that seeing individuals who have diseases has on your immune system. Why do you think this response is helpful for humans?  
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When shown images of disease, the immune system 

15: The Reluctant Revolutionary of Hope

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From this detail, we can infer that 
Here is a map of the Inca Empire that is referenced in the highlighted passage. Notice how Bolivia and Peru both share a common Incan history.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What impact do green rooftops have on the environment? 
This photograph shows Chicago's City Hall.  (This annotation contains an image)
The photograph shows an image of Central Park in New York City. Olmsted designed Central Park. What details does the author provide behind why Olmsted designed this park? (This annotation contains an image)
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We are the only species that farm 
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The author argues that we may need to add _______ to our stomachs. 
This is one example of a vertical garden. What about this design makes it ideal for an urban environment?  (This annotation contains an image)
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In what ways does Larsen argue that cliffs and cities are similar? 
Pay close attention to the solutions the author argues for in the upcoming paragraph. Do you think his ideas are possible? Why or why not? 
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Which central idea is explained in this passage?  
Quiz #3