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Disease can be our ally, not just our enemy, says new book by UCR evolutionary biologist

nderstand the importance of disease in our lives by considering how gravity has shaped our evolution. "Gravity makes us break our bones when we fall and our body parts droop with age, but in a weightless environment we dont function very well either," she said. "Like it or not, we evolved with gravity, and we evolved with disease."

At UCR, Zuk studies parasites and behavior in a variety of animals. Her research centers on sexual selection and the effects of parasites on mate choice and the evolution of secondary sex characters. Her popular writings include contributions to the Los Angeles Times, Natural History, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A native of Los Angeles, Zuk is also the author of Sexual Selections: What We Can and Cant Learn about Sex From Animals (University of California Press, 2002), which argued that while animals display considerable and interesting variation, not all of it can be extrapolated to explain human behavior. In addition, she is coeditor, with Jenella E. Loye, of Bird-Parasite Interactions: Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour (Oxford University Press, 1991).

Zuk got her undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. After a postdoctoral appointment at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, she joined UCR as a faculty member in 1989.

Q & A with Marlene Zuk:

Q: Your last book was about sex why did you turn to disease?

A: Sex is all about disease, so they arent as different as you might think. For one thing, disease may be responsible for why we and most other animals have sexual reproduction at all, instead of just cloning ourselves. Its much more efficient to just have a female produce Xerox copies of herself. But the parasites and pathogens are always evolving back at us, so a copy of even the most resistant set of genes will become outdated and usel
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
5-Apr-2007


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