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Vampire bats haven't really gotten a fair shake. Historically, they've morphed into fanged, ashen-faced human monsters with a penchant for Brylcreem and black capes. But as Schutt, a biology professor and a mammalian researcher at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, ably points out, vampire bats -- among other creatures that give us the heebie-jeebies -- aren't nearly so scary, once you get to know them.
Even if you're not among those who find bloodsuckers cute, you'll enjoy this journey into the bizarre and challenging lives of blood-feeding creatures. As Schutt deftly explains, theirs is a tough way to eke (or rather "eek") out a living. Schutt is a genial guide, and his respect and admiration for his subjects -- including ticks, leeches, mosquitoes, and bedbugs -- is evident throughout. He even defends the dreaded candiru, a fish of the Amazon more feared than the piranha due to its reputed penchant for swimming up the human urethra and using its spines to implant itself.
Alas, the most dangerous creature on earth, for humans, is the pesky mosquito. Yet it is the vampire bat, small, delicate, supremely adapted through history to survive on host "donations," that captures our attention. With a healthy dose of humor and solid science, Dark Banquet asks only that we offer up a little understanding, and maybe even a fair shake, to all. (Holiday 2008 Selection)