'Monster Science' Links Werewolves to Cannibal Salamanders

The good Dr. Jessup has one final 'Monster Science' lecture for us this Halloween season, and it concerns one of horror cinema's favorites: the werewolf.

The topic might seem a bit science-proof at first glance. After all, the biological and behavioral effects of lunar activity will only get you so far. And as science historian Brian Regal pointed out in 2009, the rise of Darwinian theory largely extinguished the notion of werewolves in favor of the more believable Sasquatch. There's just too much genetic distance for lycanthropes to serve as a viable embodiment of humanity's wild, bestial core — at least in any literal sense.

From a purely metaphoric standpoint, however, the werewolf continues to captivate us. Men and women become monsters, transformed by inner and outer forces beyond their control. That's pure existential angst, right there — and every new psychological, neuroscientific and genetic study we read has a way of hammering the reality home. There's a monster inside each of us, and we're only vaguely aware of the factors that summon it.

And so Dr. Jessup tackles the essence of werewolf mythology: a human who morphs into a cannibal monster. In the human world, this is pure fantasy. But in the world of tiger salamanders? There, transformation into a flesh-eating monster is a brutal fact of life.  

Get more of Dr. Jessup's creepy lectures below, too.