Palumbi, Stephen R.

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PALUMBI, Stephen R.

PERSONAL: Married Mary Roberts (a physician); children: two. Education: University of Washington, Ph.D. (marine ecology).

ADDRESSES: Office—Stanford University, Department of Biological Sciences, Hopkins Marine Station, Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove, CA 93950. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, professor of biology; Palumbi Lab, Pacific Grove, CA, director; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, professor of biology; Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, curator of invertebrates.


(Editor with Joan D. Ferraris) Molecular Zoology: Advances, Strategies, and Protocols, Wiley-Liss (New York, NY), 1996.

The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change, Norton (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Stephen R. Palumbi is a professor of biology at Stanford University. He is director of the Palumbi Lab, a facility for students and post-doctoral fellows who study genetics, evolution, population biology, and systematics of marine and terrestrial organisms. In The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change, Palumbi examines how humans have influenced evolution through the past several thousand years, starting with Paleolithic hunters who, by cooperating with wolves and favoring certain traits, unknowingly steered the evolution of dogs. He continues with a discussion of humans ten thousand years ago, who, without any knowledge of genetics or evolution, began breeding and hybridizing plants and animals, selecting for traits they wanted in cattle, pigs, potatoes, and other plants.

Palumbi makes it clear that evolution is still happening today, and he suggests that it can be observed over years, not millennia. For example, in the past fifty years, Pacific Northwest salmon have evolved to be only two-thirds the size of their ancestors five decades ago. The reason: fishermen in the area have selectively killed big fish rather than small ones, so smaller ones survive to procreate and produce more small fish. In another example, Palumbi describes a person with AIDS as an evolutionary arms race in which HIV viruses adapt to the victim's immune system as well as to the drugs used to fight them. In order to stop the disease, researchers must discover not only new drugs that will fight the virus but, more importantly, how to curtail the virus's ability to rapidly evolve resistant forms. The same battle against resistance is being waged by farmers, who continually try new methods to control insects in their crops. As rapidly as new controls are developed, the insects adapt to them and become resistant, requiring a whole new generation of pesticides to be developed. According to Carl Zimmer in the New York Times, Palumbi "does an excellent job of showing how man-made evolution is not only real but relevant." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer commented that the book "is a straightforward overview for the lay reader of the dangerous real-life significance of evolution."

In Molecular Zoology: Advances, Strategies, and Protocols, Palumbi and coeditor Joan D. Ferraris present papers from a January 1995 symposium. The articles examine contemporary tools in molecular biology and outline new areas of biological research. Maureen K. Krause wrote in BioScience that "Biologists who already use molecular tools will find Molecular Zoology an invaluable reference source." In Science, Rodney L. Honeycutt noted, "All the authors in this book demonstrate a clear understanding of natural systems and relate their research to the broader issues in evolutionary biology that deal with the diversity of organisms and the explanation of natural phenomena."



BioScience, March, 1997, Maureen K. Krause, review of Molecular Zoology: Advances, Strategies, and Protocols, p. 194.

Booklist, May 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change, p. 1649.

Nature, August 9, 2001, Jerry A. Coyne, review of The Evolution Explosion, p. 586.

New York Times Book Review, May 27, 2001, Carl Zimmer, "Unsafe for Any Species," p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of The Evolution Explosion, p. 232.

Science, January 3, 1997, Rodney L. Honeycutt, review of Molecular Zoology, p. 36.


W.W. Norton Web site, (December 2, 2001).*