Cannibalism, murderous bugs, face mites, and creepy clowns


Gory Details is National Geographic reporter Erika Engelhaupt’s new book on the science of creepy, interesting, and real things like face mites (above), cannibals’ calorie intake, the inconvenience of earwax, and the psychology of coulrophobia. From an interview with Engelhaupt in Science News:

SN: Do you have a favorite reporting excursion?

Angel head: Probably the most fun trip I took for the book was to go to the lab of biologist Rob Dunn at North Carolina State University to find my own facial mites. There are two types of tiny eight-legged mites that live on all of our faces – and elsewhere on our bodies too, by the way. To see something that lived in my pores and curled up on the slide – there’s nothing like that for me. I still have pictures of my face mites on my phone so I can show them to people[…]

SN: You also write about a lot of new scientific research. Are there any outstanding papers that you thought I need to write about?

Angel head: A study in which scientists fed blowflies with various human body fluids to find out which the flies found the most delicious. [The scientists] We studied how flies can transfer human DNA, ingested from body fluids, to different parts of a crime scene. [DNA analysis] Techniques are now so sensitive that we ingest DNA from fly droppings. If the flies have previously eaten human blood or semen or saliva, there may be DNA from that person pooped out by the fly. The [DNA] could be interpreted as a blood spatter or picked up on the side at a crime scene and really confuse the situation. Who would have thought you would have to study fly poop to analyze DNA at a crime scene?

SN: I was sure you would say the paper about a person’s calorie count from the chapter on cannibalism.

Angel head: That was a question I didn’t know I had until I saw a scientist answered it. And these are some of the things I wanted to fill this book with: You didn’t know you wanted to know, but I hope that now you are glad you did.

Gory Details: Adventure From The Dark Side Of Science (Amazon)

Image: All Species Wiki