Zoobiquity: The (Quite) Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health

Zoobiquity (n.) “ an interdisciplinary field that draws together knowledge from human medicine, veterinary medicine, and evolutionary biology to create an integrated view of physical and behavioral health.”

My very first thought walking into CHF’s Zoobiquity was, “Oh goodness, how in the world am I going to relate the science of animals with the history of America?” But after listening intently to the two authors of Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health, as you can tell from the title, I found that the relationship between animals and people, from the past to present, is closer than we expect, and can ultimately determine some aspects of our future, especially health!

The well-educated authors of this book, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, started by explaining that this methodology of “zoobiquity” was brought up for the purpose of finding ways in which humans and animals can take care of one another. Natterson-Horowitz stated that, “100 years ago, we were all taken care by the same people,” and that right there alone is a reason for animals in modern times to possess the same symptoms of diseases as humans, including a similar type of bone cancer found in both adolescents and domestic dogs. Also, both ladies mentioned some facts here and there that were quite surprising to know. For instance, the oldest form of brain cancer was traced all the way back to a dinosaur, way back when they had occupied our Earth. Also, a syndrome that leads to cardiac death contained the same diagnosis as humans, telling us that our health systems are not that much different.

Now, how can all of these random facts relate to human history, notably America’s? Well after deeper grasp behind the concept that animals and humans are related in numerous ways, I thought about how much people generally don’t acknowledge this. Many don’t understand how studying animal health can beneficially aid human health, the results of these studies potentially providing us with unexpected cures or treatments. After processing on that idea, I thought, “Well, remember way back when in U.S. history when animals were used for produce and transportation and so many other things?” I believe that we did not as well acknowledge the help we got from animals when we brought them over to the New World. Often we hear about how cotton and rice and other crops provided us sustenance in our health but we should also recognize the importance animals had served for us in American history. For example, in America, Found and Lost, when looking in an ecological aspect from a historical event, the European honeybee brought to America in 1622 contributed mostly with their ability to pollinate, not to produce honey in which the English desired more and what I would also expect to be the main factor of their contribution. Without their pollination, the plants Europeans brought might have not even thrived. The article says,“Georgia probably wouldn’t have become the Peach State; Johnny Appleseed’s trees might never have borne fruit; Huckleberry Finn might not have had any watermelons to steal. So critical to European success was the honeybee that Indians came to view it as a harbinger of invasion; the first sight of one in a new territory, noted French-American writer Jean de Crèvecoeur in 1782, ‘spreads sadness and consternation in all [Indian] minds.'” These were all pretty relevant remembrances in history and just thinking about how the European honeybee made this possible is quite astonishing and in actuality often overlooked.

As the last question of the day for me in terms of attending the Chicago Humanities Festival, I was quite satisfied with the answer that Kathryn Bowers had given. The question had spoken of the comparison between humans being in jail and animals being in zoos, and how they are any different. Also what conditions did they face? Bowers answered by saying that though the physical conditions may be different, the emotional issues both acquire being in a forcibly trapped environment are correlative, both possessing the susceptibility and risk of self-injury. I’m sure there was more science behind this answer but I simply found this interesting.

Overall, I found this event pleasant and very informational. Heading towards the medical field, I knew how animals were prevalent in biological studies but I didn’t know how much they affected human behavior and how it could help us to determine our questions about human behavior. Connecting it to the past, when dinosaurs were existent and to when Jamestown was founded also made this concept more understandable.


Chicago Humanities Festival Event, Zoobiquity

Mann, Charles. “America, Found and Lost.” National Geographic. Pg. 2. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.charlesmann.org/>.

Images from Google Images, Liscensed to Freely Use and Share.

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