Eve: How Female Body Drove 200M Yrs of Human Evolution

Eve: How Female Body Drove 200M Yrs of Human Evolution

Not everyone would read a book on evolution for pleasure. But I have always had a fascination with Neanderthals, so that is my excuse. But this book is not about my favorite home sapiens precursor or our early date and mate partners.

Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution
By Cat Bohannon
Alfred A. Knopf, 2023

Not everyone would read a book on evolution for pleasure. But I have always had a fascination with Neanderthals, so that is my excuse. But this book is not about my favorite home sapiens precursor or our early date and mate partners.

In Eve, we have, at last, a book that does not intone about the evolution of “mankind” but puts the female as the leader in mammalian development. It’s obvious really, from a semantic point of view. Mammals and mammary all refer to the breast. Cat Bohannon relates how the earliest known animal that suckled its young was Morganucodon, a mouse-sized creature that skittered between the feet of dinosaurs 205 million years ago. Not that “Morgie” as Bonhannon nicknames her, was a mammal. She was a marsupial, an animal that laid eggs. Apparently, Morgie, like today’s platypuses, protected her eggs by coating them with a thick antifungal, antibacterial mucus; eventually, some of this evolved to include more lipids, sugars, and water —in short, mother’s milk.

Not many could write about the immunological components of colostrum and breast milk and make it funny. Bohannon does, and along the way, pokes fun at men who tell women what to do. Such as the fifteenth-century “pediatrician” who advised that women not nurse their babies in the first 14 days because it is not healthy, instead suggesting that the mother have “her breast sucked by a young wolf.” Bohannon remarks drily, “I can’t imagine where he thought each new mother would find a young wolf.”

And so, this 437-page book rolls on, in chapters on Milk, Womb, Perception, Legs, Tools, Brain, Voice, Menopause, and Love. Bohannon backs up her research with 175 pages of references —just if you were wondering how a non-scientist gets credibility. Cat Bohannan is in fact an academic researcher in the evolution of narrative and cognition. She is a witty storyteller, and this delightful and fascinating version of the human story deserves to be told.