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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Big Fleas Have Little Fleas: How discoveries of invertebrate diseases are advancing modern science.

item Lacey, Lawrence

Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2007
Publication Date: 6/15/2007
Citation: Lacey, L.A. 2007. Big Fleas Have Little Fleas: How discoveries of invertebrate diseases are advancing modern science. American Entomologist 53:117.

Interpretive Summary: A multitude of insects and mites attack crops, humans, their habitations, and domestic animals. The traditional method for controlling most of these pests is the application of broad spectrum chemical pesticides. Growing concern over the negative environmental effects of pesticides has encouraged development of alternatives to broad spectrum chemical pesticides. Insect-specific pathogens have been developed as alternatives to chemical pesticides for control of a wide variety of insect and mite pests. A prominent scientist at Arizona State University has written an historical book on the discovery and development of invertebrate pathogens and links many of the discoveries in invertebrate pathology to other important fields of science. A scientist at the USDA-ARS Laboratotory in Wapato, WA was asked to review this book for the journal Environmental Entomology. His review of the book indicates that is entertaining and comprehensive.

Technical Abstract: Review of: “Big Fleas Have Little Fleas: How discoveries of invertebrate diseases are advancing modern science”. Elizabeth W. Davdison. 2006. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ. 208 pp. Dr. Davidson links many of the accomplishments in invertebrate pathology to subsequent successes in the larger scientific community, particularly with regard to human health and welfare. She chronicles the discoveries and developments in invertebrate pathology in an informative and entertaining style. The book is divided into 15 chapters and a section on suggested readings. Each chapter is illustrated with historical and scientific photographs and micrographs. Chapter 1 covers very early observations on insect disease and the subsequent 14 chapters span the time between Pasteur’s developments until the present and include the discovery and development of several microbial agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi) and nematodes (entomopathogenic and parasitic species) for classical and augmentative biological control of a variety of insect pests in agriculture and human health (covered in seven of the chapters); advances in invertebrate immunity; the Baculovirus gene expression system and its many important uses; the development of the Limulus amoebocyte lysate assay; diseases of edible marine invertebrates; the link between cholera and crustaceans; honeybee diseases; insects and their symbiotic microorganisms; and a final chapter and timeline that ties the stories in the previous chapters together with other scientific discoveries and developments. The book will be of interest to the general public whose background and curiosity in science run deeper than the average reader. It will also be of use to scientists with interests in entomology, parasitology, and other fields and to those of us who refer to ourselves as invertebrate pathologists. In addition to historical accounts, the book also provides examples of how sharing ideas and technology among scientific fields can lead to rapid advances in science.

Last Modified: 07/25/2017
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