The tangled tree : a radical new history of life
by Quammen, David, 1948- (Author)
Nonpareil science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life's history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature. In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the... Full description
Nonpareil science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life's history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature. In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field-the study of life's diversity and relatedness at the molecular level-is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection-a type of HGT. In The Tangled Tree David Quammen, "one of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling" (Nature), chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them-such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about "mosaic" creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.
461 pages, 6 unnumbered plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Quammen began his career by writing for The Christian Science Monitor, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Audubon, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Harpers Magazines. He wrote the novels The Soul of Viktor Tronko and The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions, which won the 1997 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He also received two National Magazine Awards for his column "Natural Acts" in Outside magazine.
(Bowker Author Biography)