A new book digs up surprising stories about wildly misunderstood wildlife
The Truth About Animals
Basic Books, $28
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Pliny the Elder reported that hippopotamuses find relief from overeating by piercing their skin in a hippo version of bloodletting. Eventually, scientists learned that the oozing red stuff Pliny described isn’t even blood but a secretion that may have antibacterial and sun-blocking properties. While chasing down the truth for herself, Lucy Cooke scooped the goo from a hippo and smeared it on her own skin — if nothing else, her hand was “noticeably silkier,” she writes in The Truth About Animals.
Cooke, a zoologist and documentary filmmaker, has a storehouse of such tales of animal adventure. She’s also the