Thursday, September 11, 2008

Evolutionary dance

I am currently reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, her husband and their daughters (although the youngest is, as Barbara puts it, too young to enter into a book contract). The memoir/journey is based on the decision to sustain/live/eat for one year on only food they grew themselves or that was grown or raised locally. I've only just begun the book and already I have to share a passage Barbara wrote about co-evolution because it's superb. So much so that I won't bother going on about how great the book is and will simply share her words. From 3. Spring Forward:

"Disease pathogens and their crop hosts, like all other predators and prey, are in a constant evolutionary dance with each other, changing and improving without cease as one evolves a slight edge over its opponent, only to have the opponent respond to this challenge by developing its own edge. Evolutionary ecologists call this the Red Queen principle (named in 1973 by Leigh Van Valen), after the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, who observed to Alice: 'In this place it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.' Both predator and prey must continually change or go extinct. Thus the rabbit and the fox both get faster and over the generations, as their most successful offspring pass on more genes for speediness. Humans develop new and stronger medicines against our bacterial predators, while the bacteria continue to evolve antibiotic-resistant strains of themselves. (The people who don't believe in evolution, incidentally, are just as susceptible as the rest of us to this observable occurrence of evolution. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.)"

Highly recommend this book, folks. A joy to read.

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