How does life work? How does nature produce the right numbers of zebras and lions on the African savanna, or fish in the ocean? How do our bodies produce the right numbers of cells in our organs and bloodstream? In The Serengeti Rules, award-winning biologist and author Sean Carroll tells the stories of the pioneering scientists who sought the answers to such simple yet profoundly important questions, and shows how their discoveries matter for our health and the health of the planet we depend upon.
One of the most important revelations about the natural world is that everything is regulated—there are rules that regulate the amount of every molecule in our bodies and rules that govern the numbers of every animal and plant in the wild. And the most surprising revelation about the rules that regulate life at such different scales is that they are remarkably similar—there is a common underlying logic of life. Carroll recounts how our deep knowledge of the rules and logic of the human body has spurred the advent of revolutionary life-saving medicines, and makes the compelling case that it is now time to use the Serengeti Rules to heal our ailing planet.
A bold and inspiring synthesis by one of our most accomplished biologists and gifted storytellers, The Serengeti Rules is the first book to illuminate how life works at vastly different scales. Read it and you will never look at the world the same way again.
Sean B. Carroll is an award-winning scientist, writer, educator, and executive producer. He is vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Allan Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His books include Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Brave Genius, and Remarkable Creatures, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
"In The Serengeti Rules, the author goes from E. coli to elephants to lay out the basic rules that shape so much of what's around us and inside us."--Brian Switek, Wall Street Journal
"In this remarkably engaging book, Carroll . . . persuasively argues that life at all levels of complexity is self-regulated, from the inner workings of cells to the larger relationships governing the Serengeti ecosystem. . . . Carroll superbly animates biological principles while providing important insights."--Publishers Weekly
"The Serengeti Rules is one of the best biology books for general readers I've ever encountered. It should be required reading for every college student, regardless of major."--Andrew H. Knoll, Harvard University
"A compelling read filled with big, bold ideas. . . . Through compelling storytelling, key insights of distant, isolated biologists are brought to life. . . . I suspect that many will find new insights and inspiration here… Carroll has made a strikingly clear case that ecology is a science on a par with molecular biology and genetics. In many ways, this book is an homage to Charles Elton. . . . Building on his vision, Carroll provides a passionate motto for the twenty-first century: ‘better living through ecology.' Are the Serengeti Rules a panacea? No, but Carroll convincingly reveals them to be a sturdy foundation for the future of biology, for human well-being, and for conservation and management."--Brian J. Enquist, Nature
"A thought-provoking challenge to complacency."--Kirkus
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Miracles and Wonder 1
I EVERYTHING IS REGULATED 13
1 The Wisdom of the Body 15
2 The Economy of Nature 30
II THE LOGIC OF LIFE 47
3 General Rules of Regulation 51
4 Fat, Feedback, and a Miracle Fungus 73
5 Stuck Accelerators and Broken Brakes 89
III THE SERENGETI RULES 107
6 Some Animals Are More Equal than Others 111
7 Serengeti Logic 129
8 Another Kind of Cancer 155
9 Take 60 Million Walleye and Call Us in 10 Years 169
10 Resurrection 183
Afterword: Rules to Live By 202
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