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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Darwin's Necessary Misfit and the Sloshing Bucket: the Evolutionary Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Authors
item Brooks, Daniel - U TORONTO, CANADA
item Hoberg, Eric

Submitted to: Outreach and Education in Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 4, 2007
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Citation: Brooks, D.R., Hoberg, E.P. 2008. Darwin's Necessary Misfit and the Sloshing Bucket: The Evolutionary Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Outreach and Education in Evolution. 1:2-9.

Interpretive Summary: Emerging pathogens and parasites, and the diseases attributable to such organisms are increasingly receiving attention by the public, and by scientists in the academic, private and federal sectors. Discussion of such emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), however, often continues to occur outside a powerful context provided by evolutionary biology. We explore the linkage of EID and processes in evolution and biogeography which are critical for defining and understanding the currently recognized and documented crisis associated with environmental change. Evolutionary studies suggest that the potential for rapid emergence of novel host-parasite associations appears to be a “built-in feature” of the complex phenomenon that is Darwinian evolution. The current Emerging Infectious Disease crisis is thus a new manifestation of an old and repeating phenomenon. There is evidence that previous episodes of global climate change and ecological perturbation, broadly defined, throughout earth history have been associated with environmental disruptions that produce episodic bursts of new host-parasite associations, each of which would have been called an EID at the time of its first appearance. This perspective implies that there are many evolutionary accidents waiting to happen, requiring only the catalyst of climate change, species introductions, and the intrusion of humans into areas they have never inhabited before.

Technical Abstract: Evolutionary studies suggest that the potential for rapid emergence of novel host-parasite associations appears to be a “built-in feature” of the complex phenomenon that is Darwinian evolution. The current Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) crisis is thus a new manifestation of an old and repeating phenomenon. There is evidence that previous episodes of global climate change and ecological perturbation, broadly defined, throughout earth history have been associated with environmental disruptions that produce episodic bursts of new host-parasite associations, each of which would have been called an EID at the time of its first appearance. This perspective implies that there are many evolutionary accidents waiting to happen, requiring only the catalyst of climate change, species introductions, and the intrusion of humans into areas they have never inhabited before.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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