Tears of the Cheetah: And Other Tales from the Genetic Frontier

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Macmillan, Sep 25, 2003 - Science - 287 pages
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The history of life on Earth is dominated by extinction events so numerous that over 99.9% of the species ever to have existed are gone forever. If animals could talk, we would ask them to recall their own ancestries, in particular the secrets as to how they avoided almost inevitable annihilation in the face of daily assaults by predators, climactic cataclysms, deadly infections and innate diseases.

In Tears of the Cheetah, medical geneticist and conservationist Stephen J. O'Brien narrates fast-moving science adventure stories that explore the mysteries of survival among the earth's most endangered and beloved wildlife. Here we uncover the secret histories of exotic species such as Indonesian orangutans, humpback whales, and the imperiled cheetah-the world's fastest animal which nonetheless cannot escape its own genetic weaknesses.

Among these genetic detective stories we also discover how the Serengeti lions have lived with FIV (the feline version of HIV), where giant pandas really come from, how bold genetic action pulled the Florida panther from the edge of extinction, how the survivors of the medieval Black Death passed on a genetic gift to their descendents, and how mapping the genome of the domestic cat solved a murder case in Canada.

With each riveting account of animal resilience and adaptation, a remarkable parallel in human medicine is drawn, adding yet another rationale for species conservation-mining their genomes for cures to our own fatal diseases. Tears of the Cheetah offers a fascinating glimpse of the insight gained when geneticists venutre into the wild.
 

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Contents

Two Tears of the Cheetah
15
Three Prides and Prejudice
35
Four A Run for Its LifeThe Florida Panther
56
Five Bureaucratic Mischief
76
Six A Whale of a Tale
90
Seven The Lion Plague
104
Eight The Wild Man of Borneo
119
Nine The Pandas Roots
133
Ten The Way We Were
155
Genomic Pawprints
175
Twelve Genetic Guardians
198
Thirteen Origins
222
Fourteen A Silver Bullet
241
GLOSSARY
259
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
273
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About the author (2003)

Dr. Stephen J. O'Brien is head of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institutes, National Institutes of Health. Dr. O'Brien is internationally recognized for his research contributions in human and animal genetics, evolutionary biology, retrovirology, and species conservation. In collaboration with his students, fellows, and colleagues he has researched areas as diverse as mapping the genome of the cat, to the discovery of CCR5-?32, the first human gene shown to block infection by HIV among its carriers. Dr. O'Brien is the author or co-author of over 500 scientific articles that have appeared widely in National Geographic, Scientific American, Nature and Science.

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