Zuk, Marlene 1956-

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Zuk, Marlene 1956-


Born 1956. Education: University of Michigan, Ph.D., 1986.


Office—Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, 1208 Spieth Hall, Riverside, CA 92521. E-mail—[email protected]


Biologist. University of California, Riverside, professor of biology.


Animal Behavior Society.


(Editor, with J.E. Loye) Bird-Parasite Interactions: Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.

Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor of chapters to books. Contributor to academic journals, including Quarterly Review of Biology, Evolution, International Journal of Parasitology, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Science, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Nature, American Zoologist, American Naturalist, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Advances in the Study of Behavior, Naturwissenschaften, Ecological Entomology, Hormones and Behavior, Ecology, Condor, Oikos, and Behavioral Ecology.


Marlene Zuk is a biologist who focuses on evolution and behavioral ecology. She edited her first book, Bird-Parasite Interactions: Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour, in 1991 with J.E. Loye. Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals was published in 2002. In it Zuk takes a look at how male scientists have misguided the field on issues of the female in the animal kingdom, particularly in the areas of sex, monogamy, and reproduction.

Josie Glausiusz, writing in Discover, commented that "in this witty and provocative survey of sex in the animal kingdom, Zuk critiques a number of long-held assumptions about male and female behavior." Banu Subramaniam, writing in the Women's Review of Books, noted that "what makes the book so enjoyable are its engaging descriptions of experiments and studies of the animal world." Subramaniam observed, however, that "at times her lack of footnotes and refer- ences is frustrating." Subramaniam found the study to be "a wonderfully engaging introduction" to the field but not so useful for experts. Subramaniam concluded her review noting that "while I revel in the work of feminist biologists who are questioning and transforming traditional theories of animal behavior, I believe research must go further." Subramaniam suggested that scientists "must work toward creating an interdisciplinary world of humanities, social, physical, and biological sciences. Marlene Zuk makes such a project seem possible." Shannon Brownlee, writing in U.S. News & World Report, declared that Zuk's work in the field of animal behavior collectively comprises "a resounding blow to all who would doubt the veracity of evolution." New York Times Book Review contributor Emily Eakin called the book "fascinating and persuasive." Eakin concluded by saying that "Zuk is not an ideologue, just an unusually cleareyed scholar. No doubt some readers will resist her efforts to claim scientific dispassion for feminism. But few will dispute her modest and sensible conclusion."

Zuk published Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are in 2007. In it Zuk explains how contemporary society has become preoccupied with sanitization and antibacterial products that it misses the point that a large number of bacteria, several that constantly live in or on us, provide a necessary role in helping us to survive from other more harmful types of bacteria. Zuk argues that we need to stop trying to kill bacteria, but instead, accept that they are a part of our existences and learn how to live with them.

Writing on the BookLoons Web site, Hilary Williamson described the book as "an insightful and witty survey" that was "rich in examples from animal behavior." Williamson noted that "there's an accessible introduction to immunology," and she added that she "was especially intrigued by how a parasite can influence its host's behavior." Williamson concluded that "Riddled with Life is a fascinating read." A contributor to the Midwest Book Review commented that the book is "an excellent survey." The same critic thought the book has wide appeal and "is a pick not just for school holdings." Robert Ito, writing in the Los Angeles Magazine, found the book "witty and lucid." Ito observed that the book contains "everything from beneficial bacteria to STD-afflicted toads." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews thought that, considering all of Zuk's claims in the book, "some of this is over the top." The contributor conceded, however, that "her basic point—that parasites will always be with us and not always against us—is well taken." Laurence A. Marshall, writing in Natural History, reiterated Zuk when describing the book "as a disease appreciation course." Marshall observed that Zuk "cites some intriguing studies" throughout the text. Marshall concluded: "As the title suggests, we all may be riddled with life-forms that do not share our genes, but without them we would not be fully human." Jason B. Jones, writing on the PopMatters Web site, described the book as "lively," "splendid, and witty." Jones thought that "Zuk has an amazing gift for turning experiments and facts into stories," noting that the section on sexually transmitted diseases was his favorite. Jones continued by saying: "While Riddled with Life won't make you enjoy your spring cold, it may well bring a fresh understanding of the centrality of disease to health, and almost certainly will drive home the diversity and ingenuity of parasites." Jones concluded by saying that Zuk "is urging the public to take a new look at disease, though it's one that's well supported by the research. There are moments where she's speculating ahead of the science a bit, but those moments are clearly marked. Riddled with Life will change the way you look at public and private health."



Boston Globe, April 8, 2007, Anna Mundow, author interview.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December, 2002, E.H. Rave, review of Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals, p. 657.

Discover, August, 2002, Josie Glausiusz, review of Sexual Selections, p. 80.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007, review of Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are.

Los Angeles Magazine, April, 2007, Robert Ito, review of Riddled with Life, p. 100.

Midwest Book Review, June, 2007, review of Riddled with Life.

Natural History, October, 2007, Laurence A. Marshall, review of Riddled with Life, p. 42.

New Scientist, June 20, 2007, Peter Aldhous, author interview.

New York Times Book Review, July 14, 2002, Emily Eakin, review of Sexual Selections, p. 26.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March, 2003, John J. Wiens, review of Sexual Selections, p. 127.

Science News, May 26, 2007, review of Riddled with Life, p. 335.

SciTech Book News, June, 2007, review of Riddled with Life.

U.S. News & World Report, August 13, 1990, Shannon Brownlee, "Sex, Predators and the Theory of Evolution: Observing Darwin's Ideas in Action," p. 60.

Women: A Cultural Review, summer, 2002, review of Sexual Selections.

Women's Review of Books, December, 2002, Banu Subramaniam, review of Sexual Selections, p. 20.


BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (January 4, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of Riddled with Life.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (April 3, 2007), Jason B. Jones, review of Riddled with Life.

University of California, Riverside, Department of Biology Web site,http://www.biology.ucr.edu/ (January 4, 2008), author profile.