The Society of Genes

Yanai, Itai & . Harvard Univ. Jan. 2016. 288p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780674425026. $27.95. SCI
Single genes do not hijack organisms to perpetuate themselves. Instead, according to Yanai (biology, Technion, Israel) and Lercher (bioinformatics, Heinriche Heine Univ., Germany), societies of genes work biochemical wonders for survival. In approachable language laced with metaphor, the authors explain how cancer breaches eight defenses, bacteria develop antibiotic resistance, and immune systems create precisely targeted B-cells. Sloppy overgeneralization, however, weakens the authors' arguments about whole organisms' natural history, physiology, and evolution. Can racism genes exist without a firm definition of race? Speciation often begins not with geographic obstacles or incongruous chromosomes but with barriers such as divergent mating calls or pheromones. And complete genomes don't yet exist for many organisms. Much taxonomy is still physical. For information on hominid, genomic evolution try instead Eugene E. Harris's Ancestors in Our Genome; Daniel Davis's The Compatibility Gene covers the molecular genetics of disease susceptibility; and for genomics behind natural history there is Norman A. Johnson's Darwinian Detectives.
VERDICT This small bite of the feast that is molecular genetics will leave general readers hungry for more.
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