Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death
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How does the animal world deal with death? And what ecological and spiritual lessons can we learn from examining this? Bernd Heinrich has long been fascinated by these questions, and when a good friend with a terminal illness asked if he might have his “green burial” at Heinrich’s hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist and author to investigate. Life Everlasting is the fruit of those investigations, illuminating what happens to animals great and small after death.
From beetles to bald eagles, ravens to wolves, Heinrich reveals the fascinating and mostly hidden post-death world that occurs around us constantly, while examining the ancient and important role we too play as scavengers, connecting death to life.
"Despite focusing on death and decay, Life Everlasting is far from morbid; instead, it is life-affirming . . . convincing the reader that physical demise is not an end to life, but an opportunity for renewal."—Nature
“A worldwide tour of the role of death in nature that is consistently fascinating and fun to read.”—Seattle Times
into the stream. Along the dirt road where I live in Vermont is a drainage where, were it not for beavers, the water would be seasonal. Thanks to the beavers, who harvest trees for food and for dam construction, the water is now there year-round. The beavers have built a series of dams (fifteen at my last count) that impound the water in steps down the valley incline. The dams range from about twenty to several hundred feet in length. The largest of the beaver-made ponds holds three species of
there are no dung scarabs at the droppings of cows, deer, or moose; in contrast, the dung of the equivalent bovids and antelopes in Africa is used up almost immediately by dung scarabs in the rainy season. In northern Europe, where the ancestral bovids have been exterminated and replaced by cows, there are no swarms of dung scarabs at dung pats—at least I saw not one scarab during two weeks in August 2011 when I worked as a cowherd in the Swiss Alps. Australia presents still another scenario.
tonguelike structure that when not in use is neatly curled up into a roll on its “chin.” The moth belonged to a worldwide family, the Sphingidae or sphinx moths, sometimes called hawk moths. But aside from their behavior, which seems to mimic that of hummingbirds, and their physiology, which is analogous to a hummingbird’s, one is struck by their beauty. The subtle color schemes of the sphingids are mesmerizing. Shades of gray mix with black and pure white, rich browns, yellows, purples, pink,
that enough of it was saved (by a German doctor after he was taken prisoner) that he could, just barely, walk despite all the metal in his body. Sweat would roll off his forehead as he told me of his experiences in the war. I could not believe he was telling it all to me! I started running harder, faster, longer, even if it hurt, to show Lefty what I could do. He would never know, or even suspect, that part of his spirit would live on beyond his death. But it does. His belief in me and his
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