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Why Evolution Matters

  Agriculture | Cornerstone of biology | Environment | Medicine

One of the fathers of the "modern synthesis" of evolutionary biology, Theodosius Dobzhansky, stated that "nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution." His words are equally true when applied to related fields, such as agriculture, medicine, and environmental and conservation biology. The books, articles, and Web sites listed here discuss the importance of evolution as the foundation of biology and its implications for our future.


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The Evolving EnemyThe Evolving Enemy Our roundtable panel discusses what we can do to reduce antibiotic resistance.

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Microbe ClockMicrobe Clock Learn how mutation and fast reproductive rates can allow deadly microbes to outpace medical breakthroughs.

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A Modern Mass Extinction?A Modern Mass Extinction? Are we in the midst of the greatest extinction in the history of life? Join our experts in a roundtable debate.

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Field of Genes

Field of Genes
These images of Bt and non-Bt corn show the result of inserting the genes of a bacterial species into the corn to act as a pesticide.

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Pesticide Resistance

Pesticide Resistance
This series of images shows how pesticide acts as a selective pressure on a population of insects, allowing only individuals that happen to be resistant to its effects to survive and reproduce. From NOVA: "Insect Alternative."

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About BIO

About BIO
This site provides information on this industry group's position on food and agricultural biotechnology. Hosted by Biotechnology Industry Organization.

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Cats! Wild to Mild

Cats! Wild to Mild
Follow the link from this site to "Egypt & Domestication" to learn how artificial selection and domestication of a wild cat produced the number one pet in the United States today. Hosted by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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Cotton Picking Blues

Cotton Picking Blues
Written by a geneticist, this article warns against rampant engineering of crop plants, arguing that natural selection pressures will stimulate the evolution of tougher pest species. Hosted by New Internationalist Online.

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Does the World Need Genetically Modified Foods?

Does the World Need Genetically Modified Foods?
In this interview, Dr. Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists turns a skeptical eye on the genetic modification of crop plants, suggesting alternatives and offering some cautions about as-yet-unknown risks of GM foods. Hosted by Scientific American.

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Evolution, Science and Society: Evolutionary Biology and the National Research Agenda

Evolution, Science and Society: Evolutionary Biology and the National Research Agenda
This comprehensive article details the relevance of evolutionary biology to basic research, as well as to science applications, in a wide variety of fields. Hosted by Rutgers University.

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Here We Go Again: Bt Corn and Monarch Butterflies

Here We Go Again: Bt Corn and Monarch Butterflies
This site includes the abstract of (and a link to) the research paper that raised alarm about Bt corn, a crop that has been genetically modified to produce a bacterial pesticide. Readers will also find the official rebuttal by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and some hype-free comments by the author of the page. Contains technical jargon. Hosted by the University of Illinois.

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Is GM Safe?

Is GM Safe?
This site includes the transcript of a 2000 BBC program on the genetic modification of crops. The site is a bit hard on the eyes, but the information and opinions are very interesting and offer many different perspectives. For further discussions, follow the link to the chat at the bottom of the page. Hosted by the BBC.

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Mendel

Mendel
This site includes a challenging game which helps develop an intuitive understanding of genetic inheritance, just as Mendel did more than 130 years ago. Follow the "All About Genes" link for an explanation of the processes that underlie inheritance. Designed by Agon Design, hosted by the University of Birmingham.

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Mendel's Paper in English

Mendel's Paper in English
This translation of Gregor Mendel's 1865 "Experiments in Plant Hybridization" supplements the original text with links to a glossary of troublesome terms, additional notes, discussion questions (for classroom use), a fairly current bibliography, and a "live" annotation page where you can add your own remarks for all to see. Hosted by MendelWeb.

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Online Mendelian Inheritance In Animals (OMIA)

Online Mendelian Inheritance In Animals (OMIA)
This up-to-date searchable catalog describes the genes that influence phenotypic traits of animals, from alpacas to zebrafish. Search by species or traits/disorders. Hosted by the Australian National Genomic Information Service.

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Origin, Adaptation, and Types of Corn

Origin, Adaptation, and Types of Corn
This site is a compendium of research summaries (primary sources are not cited on the page) detailing the evolutionary history of corn, as well as the varieties that currently exist throughout the world. Hosted by the University of Maryland.

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Resistance Fighting

Resistance Fighting
This short article describes how natural selection may defeat one of the most successful "natural" pesticides genetic engineers have come up with by producing insects resistant to the toxic pesticide that are even more damaging to crops. Hosted by Scientific American.

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The Domestication and Evolution of Wheat

The Domestication and Evolution of Wheat
This page illustrates the evolution of wheat from wild, weedy ancestors to its current form through a combination of natural hybridization and artificial selection. Hosted by the University of Birmingham.

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The Domestication of Plants and Animals

The Domestication of Plants and Animals
This article provides an enlightening history of human domestication of plants and animals from a geographic perspective, including a section describing some traits which were artificially selected. In addition, you'll find information about how domestication has affected human cultures. Hosted by the University of Oklahoma.

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The Food and Environment Program

The Food and Environment Program
Select "biotechnology" from the Features menu to read the Union of Concerned Scientists' view on genetically engineered crops and reasons for modifications, as well as information on antibiotic resistance. Hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Variation Under Domestication

Variation Under Domestication
This site includes chapter 1 of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, in which he explains heritable variations seen among domesticated plant and animal species. Hosted by literature.org.

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Western Corn Rootworms Adapt to Crop Rotation

Western Corn Rootworms Adapt to Crop Rotation
This article is targeted toward a more advanced audience and gives a complete account of the coevolutionary counterplay between an important crop plant and one of its principal pests. The lessons learned here apply equally as well to other pest-crop plant groups. Hosted by Washington State University Tri-cities.

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Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation

Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation
This is a book for agricultural, scientific, and policy professionals interested in the processes and consequences (pros and cons) of genetic modification of crop plants, as well as related policy issues. Case studies of several plants, notably Bt transgenics, are presented. By National Research Council Committee on Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants [Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000].

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Plant Evolution under Domestication

Plant Evolution under Domestication
An excellent resource for the advanced reader, this book chronicles the origins of agriculture, the evolution of crop plants and weeds under artificial selection, and wild sources of genetic diversity that agriculture may take advantage of in the future. By Gideon Ladizinsky [Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998].

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Plant Resistance to Herbivores and Pathogens: Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics

Plant Resistance to Herbivores and Pathogens: Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics
Targeted toward an advanced scientific audience, this book provides a review of plant resistance to phytophages gathered from many fields, including evolutionary biology. Mechanisms and consequences of resistance are discussed, along with methodologies for study. Edited by Robert S. Fritz, and Ellen L. Simms [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992].

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Who Harnessed the Horse?: The Story of Animal Domestication

Who Harnessed the Horse?: The Story of Animal Domestication
Written for a younger audience, this book explains how various animal species were domesticated and selectively bred by humans to suit a wide variety of purposes. By Matgery Facklam [Boston: Little, Brown, 1992].

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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution
The oft-quoted title says it all. Dobzhansky succinctly explains how evolutionary theory unified all other field of the biological sciences.

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Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes

Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes
This site encourages the teaching of evolutionary theory in the greater context of modern scientific thinking and the nature of science.

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BioForum: Evolution Introduction

BioForum: Evolution Introduction
The site was produced for teachers but is also suitable for a general audience. It includes a clear discussion of how principles of evolution underlie -- and, more importantly, unify -- everything biologists have learned about living things. Hosted by AccessExcellence.

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Contributions of Evolutionary Biology to the Biological Sciences

Contributions of Evolutionary Biology to the Biological Sciences
This section of Evolution, Science and Society explores how an understanding of evolution fosters progress in the various fields of biology. A partial bibliography is provided. Hosted by Rutgers University.

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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
Available online, this book is an invaluable reference for grade 5-12 biology teachers. It provides a compendium of essential information and activities for teaching evolutionary biology. By the Working Group on Teaching Evolution, National Academy of Sciences [Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998].

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The Architecture of Life

The Architecture of Life
This article explains how all organic forms, from simple molecules to complex organisms, are built according to the same design rules, rules which are themselves products of evolution. Hosted by Scientific American.

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Evolutionary Biology, 3rd ed.

Evolutionary Biology, 3rd ed.
An excellent college-level textbook for the serious student of modern evolutionary theory. By Douglas J. Futuyma [Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates, Inc., 1998].

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The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, 2nd ed.

The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, 2nd ed.
A collection of essays by the scientists who forged the modern synthesis, this work discusses how the modern synthesis unified all of biology, not just the evolutionary field. By Ernst Mayr [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998].

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Theory of Population Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology: An Introduction

Theory of Population Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology: An Introduction
This classic text describes the field of evolutionary ecology, combining population biology and genetics for a more integrated view of species interactions over both short- and long-term periods. By Jonathan Roughgarden [New York: MacMillan, 1979].

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A Modern Mass Extinction?

A Modern Mass Extinction?
Are we in the midst of the greatest extinction in the history of life? Join our experts in a roundtable debate.

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Biological Invaders

Biological Invaders
This segment from Evolution: "Extinction!" shows the impact of invasive species on native ecosystems.

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Shrinking Salmon

Shrinking Salmon
This graphic shows the decline in the average size of pink salmon due to human fishing practices.

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Chris Schneider: Rethinking Conservation

Chris Schneider: Rethinking Conservation
In this interview filmed for Evolution: "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," biologist Chris Schneider discusses the relationship between conservation and speciation.

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Center for Environmental Citizenship

Center for Environmental Citizenship
This site for college students aims to make environmental activism a little easier, providing form letters to corporations and information about environmental programs.

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Conserving Biodiversity Hot Spots

Conserving Biodiversity Hot Spots
This online article succinctly explains why species conservation is important to ecosystem health and suggests that conservation efforts target 24 "hot spot" ecosystems to protect the most species. Hosted by davidsuzuki.org.

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Conserving Wildlife and Habitats

Conserving Wildlife and Habitats
This site has information about habitat conservation, invasive species, and other resources. Hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Evolutionary Biology: Meeting Societal Needs

Evolutionary Biology: Meeting Societal Needs
Section VII, part D of Evolution, Science and Society details the relevance of evolutionary biology to environmental and conservation programs. Hosted by Rutgers University.

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Fact Sheet - Invasive Species

Fact Sheet - Invasive Species
This site contains information about some of America's least-wanted invasive species, with a list of sources for further investigation. Hosted by the Ecological Society of America.

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Introduced Species: The Threat to Biodiversity

Introduced Species: The Threat to Biodiversity
This article contains a thorough discussion of several ways exotics can put unnatural selection pressures on native species. Specific examples are given and links to additional information. Hosted by actionbioscience.org.

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Invasive Species Program

Invasive Species Program
This site can tell you what introduced species are living in your region and provide information about national programs related to invasive species. Hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The Effects of Overfishing on Marine Biodiversity

The Effects of Overfishing on Marine Biodiversity
This article, originally published in Current: The Journal of Marine Biology, explains how overfishing can cause entire ecosystems to become less able to adapt to environmental perturbations.

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The Life of Birds: Evolution

The Life of Birds: Evolution
This site recounts the evolutionary history of birds, whose recent past includes innumerable instances of human influence, including habitat destruction and outright extermination of certain species. Hosted by PBS.

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Voyage to the Galapagos:

Voyage to the Galapagos: "Paradise Lost"
Made for teachers, this "in the classroom" site on conservation biology provides background reading and classroom activities for grades 5-12, plus national science education standards. Hosted by PBS.

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Evolution and the Aquatic Ecosystem: Defining Unique Units in Population Conservation

Evolution and the Aquatic Ecosystem: Defining Unique Units in Population Conservation
This book is a collection of peer-reviewed scientific papers representing many different approaches to maximizing conservation success by incorporating evolutionary principles. Edited by J.L. Nielsen [Bethesda, Md.: American Fisheries Society, 1995].

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Principles of Conservation Biology, 2nd ed.

Principles of Conservation Biology, 2nd ed.
This advanced college-level text includes discussions of how evolutionary principles underlie conservation practices. By Gary K. Meffe and C. Ronald Carroll [Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates, Inc., 1997].

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Something New Under the Sun

Something New Under the Sun
This book chronicles the environmental history of planet Earth in the 20th century, describing changes (specifically, selection pressures) humans have caused in ecosystems worldwide. By J.R. McNeill [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001].

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Stowaway Species Still Target Lakes

Stowaway Species Still Target Lakes
This article is about invasive species in the Great Lakes and efforts to control them. By Jeff Long [ Chicago Tribune, 9 July 2001].

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The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change

The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change
In this book, the author presents instances of rapid evolutionary change caused by agricultural, medical, and industrial practices of humans. By Stephen R. Palumbi [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001].

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Tinkering with Eden

Tinkering with Eden
This book tells the stories of a handful of the more than 4,000 exotic (non-native) species that have taken up residence in North America, creating new sources of selection pressure in ecosystems. By Kim Todd [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001].

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Microbe Clock

Microbe Clock
Learn how mutation and fast reproductive rates can allow deadly microbes to outpace medical breakthroughs.

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The Evolving Enemy

The Evolving Enemy
Our roundtable panel discusses what we can do to reduce antibiotic resistance.

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Cholera: Domesticating Disease

Cholera: Domesticating Disease
This segment from Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race" features biologist Paul Ewald, who studies virulence of disease organisms and how we can use that research as a powerful tool for medicine.

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Double Immunity

Double Immunity
Dr. Stephen O'Brien of the National Cancer Institute discovers a 700-year-old mutation that may make a person resistant to HIV infection. From Evolution: "Evolutionary Arms Race."

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Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance
Silent animation created for Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race" illustrates the progression of antibiotic resistance.

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Evolving Ideas: Why Does Evolution Matter Now?

Evolving Ideas: Why Does Evolution Matter Now?
In this video for high school students, an exploration of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the Russian prison system highlights one reason it is important to understand evolution.

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Hygiene Hypothesis

Hygiene Hypothesis
Dr. Erika von Mutius studies the relationship between early childhood exposure to microbes and the development of asthma and allergies in this segment from Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race."

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Structured Treatment Interruption

Structured Treatment Interruption
Can evolutionary processes work to the advantage of people locked in a struggle with drug-resistant HIV? Video segment from Evolution: "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."

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Threat of Tuberculosis

Threat of Tuberculosis
Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis is escaping its incubator -- the Russian prison system -- at an alarming rate. From Evolution: "Evolutionary Arms Race."

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Babies by Design

Babies by Design
Should we attempt to control our heredity? Take our poll.

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Darwinian Gastronomy

Darwinian Gastronomy
What is the relationship between hot climates, spicy food, and adaptive success? Compare chicken recipes from different latitudes to find out.

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Function of Fever

Function of Fever
Fevers are a sign of infection, but they may also be part of the cure. This drawing illustrates Matthew Kluger's lizard study.

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HIV Immunity

HIV Immunity
Although repeatedly exposed to HIV, Steve Crohn's blood cells were never infected. Dr. David Ho investigates in this excerpt from NOVA: "Surviving AIDS."

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Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics
This site contains information for consumers and health care practitioners and the latest news from the antibiotic resistance front. Hosted by Tufts University.

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Anti-Infective Drug Resistance

Anti-Infective Drug Resistance
This site contains a report on antiviral and antibiotic resistance, including a report on resistant tuberculosis worldwide. Hosted by the World Health Organization.

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Antibiotic Resistance: A Growing Threat

Antibiotic Resistance: A Growing Threat
This site includes a useful summary of many of the factors contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance and an extensive list of links for further exploration of the subject. Hosted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Dr. Darwin

Dr. Darwin
This 1995 Discover article explores a wide range of applications, from understanding why the Ebola virus was only a short-term epidemic to predicting what decreased activity levels might do to humans. Hosted by the University of Virginia.

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Evolution and the Origins of Disease

Evolution and the Origins of Disease
This full-text Scientific American article, written by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams in 1998, describes the newly evolved field of "Darwinian medicine" and discusses how many human afflictions are the result of evolutionary processes, including adaptive compromise.

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Evolutionary Biology: Meeting Societal Needs

Evolutionary Biology: Meeting Societal Needs
Section VII, part A of Evolution, Science and Society details the relevance of evolutionary biology to medical research. Hosted by Rutgers University.

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Human Genome Project: Impacting Many Disciplines

Human Genome Project: Impacting Many Disciplines
This poster shows the wide range of scientific disciplines that are influenced by the findings of the Human Genome Project. Download the poster or follow links to more information about the project and its implications. Hosted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Infectious Disease as an Evolutionary Paradigm

Infectious Disease as an Evolutionary Paradigm
For advanced students and specialists, this article clearly explains the coevolutionary races between humans and their pathogens and why humans are likely to lose most of the time. Hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Is Nausea in Pregnancy Nature's Way of Protecting the Fetus From Toxins?

Is Nausea in Pregnancy Nature's Way of Protecting the Fetus From Toxins?
This Washington Post article explains Margie Profet's maverick hypothesis that morning sickness is an adaptation that prevents pregnant mothers from eating many foods containing toxins which may harm the developing fetus. Hosted by the University of Virginia.

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Molecular Evolution of Prions

Molecular Evolution of Prions
This site includes two 1996 Nature papers that explain evolutionary relationships between different types of prions, the pathogens that cause mad cow disease. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why mad cow disease has given the world such a scare.

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Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)

Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)
This searchable catalog offers highly technical and detailed information about human genes and genetic disorders. Search results are summaries of recent scientific publications that provide information about the genes influencing a phenotypic trait, and accompanying links lead to maps of the chromosomal location of the genes of interest. Hosted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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PHRI Russian TB Control Program

PHRI Russian TB Control Program
This link contains information on what is being done to control the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, a major public health threat rapidly evolving in the Russian prison system. Hosted by the Public Health Research Institute.

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The Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance

The Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance
This Scientific American article explains the problem of antibiotic resistance, including causes, underlying mechanisms, and possible solutions.

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Union of Concerned Scientists

Union of Concerned Scientists
Finding information about antibiotic resistance on this site is as simple as selecting "antibiotic resistance" from the Features menu.

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When the antibiotics quit working...

When the antibiotics quit working...
This site explains how humans have effectively "selected for" resistant strains of bacteria and suggests how we may be able to slow their evolution. Hosted by The Why Files.

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Evolution of Infectious Disease

Evolution of Infectious Disease
With this book, the author became the first to propose an evolutionary approach to treating infectious disease. By Paul M. Ewald [1993. Reprint, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996].

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Infectious Diseases in an Age of Change

Infectious Diseases in an Age of Change
Targeted toward an advanced scientific audience, this book includes chapters on human selection for resistant strains of pathogens that cause diseases, from sexually transmitted diseases to tuberculosis. Edited Bernard Roizman [Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995].

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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine

Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
This book proposes a new view of medicine that takes into account the evolution of both pathogens and the human host's response to them. A wide variety of diseases are explored, from Alzheimer's to malaria. By George C. Williams and Randolph Nesse [1994. Reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1996].

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Yellow Fever, Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues

Yellow Fever, Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues
Intended for an audience with at least a college-level understanding of genetics and evolutionary biology, this book discusses in great detail the adaptations infectious agents have made in coevolving with their human hosts. By Christopher Wills [Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing, 1997].

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