Penn State

John Tooker - Associate Professor of Entomology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Parasite Rex

Author: Carl Zimmer

Book Description:

This book reveals the incredible diversity and power of parasites, which to most peoples’ surprise, dominate most ecosystems, though they usually go unseen.  Over evolutionary time, parasites have infiltrated most living species; in fact, as this book reveals, they are thought to outnumber non-parasitic species.  Many parasites species have developed complex life histories to access their hosts, and evolved impressive manipulations to maximize their own fitness at the expense of their host.  When viewed through the lens of fitness advantages and natural selection, the evolution of many of their strategies and specific tactics are quite remarkable; dome of the examples in this well-written book are hard to believe, and will make you want to share their details with someone!  Many parasites are, of course, medically relevant and their ability to adapt and overcome treatments makes them very challenging to manage. Others, however, are worth studying from a very basic perspective, to understand how they evolved and why they are so successful. Still others are valuable as applied research subjects because if we can harness their ability to influence their hosts, perhaps we can use them as allies to help control pests, like insects that attack crop plants.  This book reminded me why I became interested in parasites in graduate school and continue to keep these fascinating organisms part of my research program.


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