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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Lee F Greer, BA, MS, PhD (La Sierra University)
Description: This strikingly well chosen compendium brings together nearly 50 experts in a wide array of disciplines in biomedical science that intersect with and are informed by evolutionary biology. In addition to contributing themselves, editors Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella have brought together authors to provide an important update on the first edition of 1999. Part I introduces the evolutionary discipline as it relates to medicine, and parts II-V applies this to infectious diseases, behavior, human life histories and behavior, new diseases, and aging.
Purpose: The editors propose to make the subject matter accessible to a wide audience of educators and graduate students in the biosciences, medical students and practitioners, and the public. Such a contribution is ambitious and indeed necessary. By and large they succeed admirably. It is satisfying to see how the editors have managed to achieve a remarkable degree of similarity of tone and technicality across the contributions from so many authors.
Audience: The authors and their editors have largely succeeded in keeping the material accessible for their target audience. Unfortunately, some instances of technical terms without adequate definition do appear, but the authors very often succeed in adequately explaining discipline-specific terms and concepts. The degree to which they succeed indicates the intimate knowledge of the material by the authors and their editors.
Features: In part I, the authors discuss major classical evolutionary concepts from allele frequencies in population genetics, natural selection, adaptation, and phylogenetics as they relate to medicine. In part II, the readers learns about the co-evolution of humans and infectious diseases and datasets in the age of genomics and examples of medical importance of our evolutionary history. In part III, natural selection and adaptation is applied to life history, hormones, immunity, and behavioral ecology. Part IV focuses on the evolution of human pathogens, and part V brings evolutionary insights to developmental biology, chronic and degenerative ailments, and aging.
Assessment: This second edition is a welcome addition to the growing integration of the biomedical sciences. As an evolutionary biologist, I found myself grateful more than once that these well organized summary articles (with their references) on so many disciplines connected to evolutionary biology and genomics could be found between only two covers!