New Book by Norman Johnson Published

One of the public relations challenges faced by evolutionary biology is that most people do not see it being all that relevant to their daily lives. Norman Johnson, an adjunct professor in Biology, recently wrote a book that aims to change this perception. Johnson’s book, Darwin’s Reach: 21st Century Applications of Evolutionary Biology (CRC Press, 2022), explores how the principles and information in evolutionary biology are relevant to numerous pressing concerns. Some of these include: why are humans vulnerable to disease? How can we make our crops less vulnerable to pests and pathogens? Why are most mass produced varieties of tomatoes tasteless? What features influence how well organisms can adapt to current and expected climate change? Darwin’s reach is quite broad; evolutionary biology can be applied to all of these and many other questions.

The book, which comes out at the end of December 2021, is timely. One chapter on virus evolution focuses on SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and includes information about the likely evolutionary origin of the virus and its variants. Another recent topic is the story of how criminal perpetrators of "cold cases" have been identified because they shared DNA information with distant relatives who were in such DNA databases.

This is Norman Johnson's second book. His first, Darwinian Detectives: Revealing the Natural History of Genes and Genomes (Oxford University Press, 2007), examined how biologists can infer the action of selection and other evolutionary processes, through the analysis of DNA sequence information.

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