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Book reviews Primate biogeography Progress and prospects.

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Book Reviews
R. Dronamraju and Paolo Arese. New York: Springer.
2006. 190 pp. ISBN 0-387-28294-7. $129.00 (hardcover).
In his book The Red Queen, Matt Ridley ponders the
fact that host and parasite are locked in a close evolutionary embrace. This embrace is the essence of this
magnificent book coedited by Krishna Dronamraju and
Paulo Arese. Malaria focuses on genetic and evolutionary insights into a parasite blamed for the death of a
child every 30 s worldwide.
The link between thalassemia and malaria was
noticed decades ago. The book opens with Dronamraju’s
introduction to J. B. S. Haldane’s malaria hypothesis
and provides an abundance of geographical and epidemiological evidence supporting the idea that malaria
shaped the frequency and distribution of several hereditary hemoglobinopathies. This theory raises fascinating
questions about the consequences of malaria eradication;
chiefly, how would eradication impact the distribution of
the hemoglobinopathy genes? In this context, the hypothesis put forward by Robin Bannerman that the fluctuation of environmental factors around the world can
impact microcytemic foci and lead, over centuries, to
their appearance or regression is thought provoking.
The mechanisms responsible for the less severe
malaria symptoms exhibited in heterozygotes are incompletely understood and controversial. A chapter by Arese
et al. critically reviews studies suggesting that red blood
cells affected by certain hemoglobinopathies are not
favorable for parasite development as well as reports
arguing that this proposed mechanism does not satisfactorily address malaria resistance in certain people. The
authors reveal the existence of methodological bias at
several levels and propose an alternative mechanism to
which the enhanced phagocytosis of ring forms developing inside mutant red blood cells is fundamental. Pathogenesis, in their opinion, is best explained by the
increased production of reactive oxygen species, which
they view as the common denominator among all hemoglobinopathies, genetic and clinical differences notwithstanding. Heterozygote advantage is not limited to
malaria. Carriers of the cystic fibrosis trait have a lower
incidence of tuberculosis. The frequency of the CCR5D32 mutation, which confers resistance to HIV-1 infection, is thought to have increased under selective pressure exerted by an unknown infectious disease, bubonic
plague and smallpox being the most likely candidates.
Insights into the molecular mechanisms by which hemoglobinopathies confer protection against malaria will
therefore improve our general perspective on host-parasite interaction.
Plasmodium falciparum genetic polymorphisms have
proved a powerful tool to examine parasite population
structure and history. Rich and Ayala review evidence
for and against their malaria’s Eve hypothesis, which
posits that all existing parasite populations derive from
a recent (several thousand years) common ancestral
strain. Their data and arguments are fascinating and
controversial at the same time. While malaria’s Eve hypothesis is backed by some authors, such as Conway,
who provide supportive evidence emerging from mitoC 2007
chondrial genome analyses, other groups favor the idea
that the parasite is much older and much more diverse.
Phylogenetic trees based on the cytochrome b and circumsporozoite proteins show that the four human parasites are very remotely related to each other and that P.
falciparum is more closely related to the chimpanzee
parasite P. reichenowi than to any other Plasmodium
species. Based on the absence of differences in the csp
gene between P. malariae and P. brasilianum and
between P. vivax and P. simium, it was concluded that
lateral transfer between humans and monkeys occurred
in recent times. Rich and Ayala present captivating
arguments to support the lateral transfer of parasites
between humans and monkeys; even more engaging are
the debates concerning its direction.
The emergence of drug-resistant parasite strains is
one of the causes for the recent increase in malaria mortality and morbidity, and host and genetic factors
involved in malaria resistance constitute a cardinal
theme of the book. A chapter by Mehlotra and Zimmerman examines human enzymes involved in drug metabolism, a topic so far underexplored. Their analysis implicates human metabolic enzyme polymorphisms in the
selection for drug-resistant strains and in the variability
noticed in antimalarial drug effectiveness. The authors
underscore the urgent need to develop an integrative
approach for assessing treatment response. Such an
approach would take into consideration not only the
drug sensitivity of a parasite strain but also the variability in host metabolic drug response. Sharma underscores
the importance of vector genetics in malaria control in
India. His chapter illustrates how genetics solved one of
the paradoxes related to the differential vector potential
of Anopheles culicifacies, the major vector of malaria in
India, in regions that are similar geographically and
improved our understanding of parasite transmission
Two classic papers authored by Haldane in 1949 conclude the book. ‘‘The Rate of Mutations of Human
Genes’’ emphasizes the importance of human gene mutation rates for understanding evolutionary theory and for
solving practical problems. ‘‘Disease and Evolution,’’ the
publication that introduced the malaria hypothesis into
the scientific literature, examines the evolutionary significance of the struggle against infectious diseases. This
article suggests that, from an evolutionary perspective,
the struggle against infections differs significantly from
the struggle against other agents such as natural forces
or predators. Several intriguing questions emerge from
this section, such as whether disease serves a purpose or
is a disadvantage in the interaction between species, and
what advantages genetic and biochemical diversity
impart to a species.
Malaria: Genetic and Evolutionary Aspects will benefit a broad range of medical, scientific, and public
health professionals. Besides strengthening our understanding of the evolutionary origins of malaria, the text
opens new perspectives into infectious diseases. Understanding the evolutionary origin of pathogens has important implications for the prevention and treatment
of infectious diseases, vaccine design, and clarification
of the relationship between hosts and pathogens over
The evolutionary biology of microorganisms lies at the
core of our ability to understand, prevent, and treat infectious diseases. Some of the most urgent topics in infectious
disease research are the emergence of new diseases and the
reemergence of old ones; the appearance of drug-resistant
microorganisms; the involvement of previously known
microorganisms in the pathogenesis of new diseases; and
the ability of some pathogens to cross species barriers. An
evolutionary perspective is fundamental to comprehending
how virulence, drug resistance, and host–pathogen relationships have evolved through history. Ultimately, this
Shawn M. Lehman and John G. Fleagle. New York:
Springer. 2006. 535 pp. ISBN 0-387-29871-1. $149.00
Emerging from the work of such early naturalists as
Alexander von Humboldt and Alfred Russel Wallace, biogeography has historically been viewed as a descriptive science. Modern biogeography now explores diverse patterns
and processes that determine the geographic variation of
nature, including behavior, ecology, physiology, systematics,
climate, and geology. As a consequence, biogeography has
been practiced by researchers from a variety of scientific
traditions, each with its own methods and interpretations.
This volume is an attempt by Lehman and Fleagle to present biogeography as a unified discipline that provides a
unique perspective on the ecology and evolution of primates. The result is a valuable resource for primatologists,
paleoanthropologists, conservation biologists, and biogeographers-in-training.
Except for the first chapter and the final section,
which provide an introduction to and an evolutionary
perspective on primate biogeography, the volume is
organized around four geographic regions—the Neotropics, Africa, Madagascar, and Asia—reflecting the distribution of extant primates. Each section is preceded by
a short introduction, putting the chapters in geographic
context and providing synthesis among them. Across
these sections, the chapters span the methodological and
conceptual breadth of primate biogeography, including
descriptive models, comparative quantitative approaches,
phylogenetic systematics, and community ecology.
The first section of the book (Chapters 2–4) focuses on
Neotropical primates. Two of these chapters discuss the
historical (Lehman) and ecological (Lehman et al.) biogeography of primates in Guyana. Both use primate surveys as the unit of analysis, whereas Chapter 3 (Ellsworth and Hoelzer) uses genetic data to reconstruct the
colonization of Central America by howler monkeys.
Chapters 5–7 relate the biogeography of African primates to issues of taxonomy. Gonder and Disotell examine the
genetic support for the widely accepted subdivision of
chimpanzees into three geographic subspecies. Kamilar
explores the relationship between environmental variables
and ecological niche diversity, as it relates to species designation in savanna baboons. The final chapter in this section (McGraw and Fleagle) is largely a review of the
authors’ previously published work on mangabey diphyly,
although areas for future biogeographic research are highlighted.
The focus of the third section (Chapters 8–10) is Madagascar. Yoder and Heckman review mouse lemur genetic
data to determine whether it supports the traditional eastwest biogeographic division of the island. Ganzhorn et al.
provide a review of current issues in lemur biogeography.
approach will unveil the complex and dynamic interaction
between microorganisms, host, and environment.
New York University School of Medicine
New York, New York
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20591
Published online 15 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
They correctly point out that the rate of taxonomic revision, in addition to greatly increased research effort, has
provided a wealth of new data for biogeographic analyses
in Madagascar. As such, the correlations (or lack thereof)
between environmental variables and species richness presented by Stevens and O’Connor should be interpreted
with caution, as recent field surveys are missing from their
The fourth section (Chapters 11–12) focuses on the biogeography of Asian primates. Meijaard and Groves describe
the distribution of nonvolant mammals of mainland Southeast Asia in relation to the region’s main rivers, whereas
Harrison et al. use paleontological evidence to reconstruct
the biogeography of primates on the islands of the Sunda
Shelf during the Pleistocene. These papers accurately highlight the complex biogeographic patterns of Southeast Asian
The volume ends with a section addressing primate
biogeography from a deep time perspective (Chapter 13–
16). Fleagle and Gilbert begin the section with a comprehensive and useful overview of the primate fossil record
in the context of major climatic and geological events.
The three remaining contributions examine the relationship between biogeography and phylogeny. Heesy et al.
evaluate alternative hypotheses for the biogeographic
origins of major primate taxonomic groups, stressing the
need for inclusion of fossil taxa in cladistic phylogeographic analyses. Beard addresses many of the same
questions, but comes to the opposite conclusion, that it is
better not to include fossils in phylogenetic reconstructions. Rossie and Seiffert present a highly technical
chapter describing a new method for incorporating chronographic and biogeographic relationships into parsimony analysis.
Primate Biogeography succeeds as a reference and a
launching point for physical anthropologists interested
in biogeographic research. Lehman and Fleagle emphasize that primates are ideal subjects for biogeographic
study, because they are generally well studied as an
order. Evidence of this fact can be found in the numerous data-filled tables within the contributed papers and
the appendices at the ends of seven of the chapters. The
inclusion of this data is truly in the spirit of biogeography, as this discipline is dependent on shared data collected by many individuals working over large areas for
long periods of time.
Primate Biogeography will likely have a diverse readership and will foster communication between scientists
in disparate fields of primate research. The intended audience includes both practitioners and students of biogeography. The volume would serve well as a text in a
graduate seminar as, on the whole, the chapters are
short and not overly technical. However, the cost
($149.00) will be prohibitive for most students. I came
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
across several typographical errors and formatting
inconsistencies that detract from the volume in places,
but overall it is well edited. One criticism might be that
there are topics of relevance to primate biogeography
that are notably absent from the list of contributions.
For example, this volume lacks papers on primate
extinction biology and primate conservation. However,
these are minor points, given the impressive range of
topics covered in this book.
Overall, Primate Biogeography belongs in the library of
any conservation-minded primatologist, paleoprimatologist,
or budding biogeographer. Despite its long history, biogeography is still a young and dynamic integrative discipline,
and this volume reflects the excitement and promise of
new challenges and opportunities in primate research.
Gerald N. Grob.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press. 2002. 349 pp. ISBN 0-674-00881-2. $19.95
In The Deadly Truth, Gerald N. Grob (Henry E. Sigerist Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at
Rutgers College) provides a broad overview of the history
of medicine and selected diseases in America. His review,
newly released in paperback, extends from pre-Columbian cultures to relatively modern times. A chronological
approach is used to highlight the ways that culture, ideology, technology, and ecology underlie the major diseases at various times and places in America. Grob’s theoretical framework is reminiscent of the groundbreaking
work of Calvin Wells (Bones, Bodies and Disease, 1964)
although Wells’s work focused more on ancient world civilizations. Both demonstrate the need to integrate a wide
range of factors such as social class, culture, geography,
warfare, technology, and demography when attempting
to understand the etiology and effects of disease at the
population level.
The book begins with indigenous health prior to contact and charts the periods of colonization, growth,
expansion, war, and industrialization. Grob focuses on
infectious disease and ultimately demonstrates that disease has never, and will never, disappear. Rather, disease morphs and changes and reappears as something
new and deadly when the right circumstances emerge.
For example, the rise of tuberculosis in crowded urban
centers in the early part of the 19th century is somewhat
counterintuitive given the increasing sophistication of
technology, medical knowledge, and hygiene. Grob shows
how endemic infectious diseases followed the decline of
the acute and chronic infections (e.g., measles) that
plagued the 18th century.
Grob presents copious historical detail, demographic
statistics, and data on morbidity and mortality to demonstrate his case that epidemiological transitions have
less to do with medical intervention than with underlying circumstances. Some of the useful (and stunning)
statistics that Grob reports include the huge decrease in
mortality from all infections in the later 19th and early
20th centuries, predating the use of antibiotics and vaccines. Following the rise and fall of various kinds of infectious diseases through history, Grob discusses the
rise in heart disease-related deaths. He suggests that
new theories about the etiology of heart disease link it
with infections. The final chapter covers HIV and can-
Department of Anthropology
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA
Department of Anatomy
Dartmouth Medical School
Hanover, NH
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20624
Published online 15 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
cers, suggesting new ways to think about them given
his overarching theme that Americans will never
‘‘conquer’’ disease in any sense of the word.
A slight sense of gloom and doom pervades this book,
and readers will either find this refreshingly honest or
sort of scary. Grob presents the data as he does because
he wishes to convince the reader that medicine and technology will not save us and that there is some measure
of randomness and unpredictability to how diseases
interact with given populations in certain environments.
Biocultural change, a given in American history, is one
of the major reasons why one disease threat has replaced
another, over and over again, since the earliest history.
Anthropologists might be somewhat frustrated with
the documentation style, which embeds sources in difficult to locate endnotes. Those more familiar with the primary history literature will no doubt be comfortable
with this style. Because this is a condensed, single-volume overview covering 500-plus years of disease in
America, an abundance of literature is cited in the endnotes, ranging from hard to locate historical medical
sources to ethnography and poetry.
The only chapter that I found seriously wanting was
Chapter 1, ‘‘The Pre-Columbians.’’ Attempting to discuss
all of paleopathology and health and disease in ancient
America, the author slips into making very general
statements that are somewhat ridiculous, especially to
those who know the data from which they are drawn.
For example, Grob states that ‘the data on prehistory
are extraordinarily scanty; nearly all ‘‘facts’’ are speculative or extrapolated from tiny samples’ (p 8) and that ‘‘to
reconstruct the pattern of disease in the Americas before
1492 is extraordinarily difficult’’ (p 17). Many working in
paleoepidemiology might disagree with these overgeneralizations. The endnotes reveal that a very small amount
of the available skeletal biology literature was used to
reconstruct a broad pattern of disease for pre-Columbian
America. The discussion on the Neolithic Revolution and
the shift to agriculture is remarkably lacking in any presentation of empirical data or even reference to the hundreds of studies on disease at the various origins of agriculture in the Americas. The author concludes the chapter with the suggestion that diseases endemic in preColumbian populations (e.g., nutritional anemias, ear
infections, staph, and parasitic infections) were of a different nature than the crowd diseases (e.g., typhus,
smallpox, measles, influenza) widespread in Europe at
the time. Grob is clearly less familiar with the vast liter-
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
ature on the paleopathology and bioarcheology of the
pre-Columbian and early colonial periods. However, later
periods are handled more authoritatively, and Grob
draws on many diverse resources to synthesize the
impact of historic and contemporary diseases.
This book could be an interesting complement to
other texts commonly used in biological anthropology
and medical anthropology courses on disease. It certainly presents a multitude of statistics and facts that
are analyzed within a biocultural framework. Some might
find the rather dystopian view of America’s future
with respect to illness, disease, and death problematic.
It would likely provoke students to grapple with Grob’s
notion that only rarely can medicine be shown to be
effective in diminishing disease for the masses. The
rich and the famous will continue to do better in terms
of life expectancy, but, in the end, magic bullets for the
infectious (bacterial and viral) diseases that kill millions
will not be found because these diseases are the products
of complex gene–environment–culture interactions.
This book has received mostly rave reviews from historians, physicians, epidemiologists, and others. It does
pull together a wide variety of not only statistics but
Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. 2006. 256
pp. ISBN 0-8265-1418-9. $69.95 (paper).
Since first described in the early 20th century, the
collapse of Mayan civilization in the southern lowlands
during the Classic period has been the subject of much
fascination and debate. Although there is no universally
accepted explanatory theory, the Mayan decline is generally characterized as the result of either environmental
or social factors. Environmental theories hypothesize
that social collapse and abandonment of the region were
the result of catastrophe, epidemic disease, and climate
change. More recently, theories based on factors such as
foreign invasion, peasant revolt, and the collapse of key
trade routes have been proposed. Diet, Health, and Status among the Pasión Maya is the second volume in the
Vanderbilt Institute of Mesoamerican Archaeology Series
edited by Arthur A. Demarest. The series contains the
results and syntheses of work from the Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project, a 7-year multidisciplinary
investigation into the causes of the Mayan collapse.
As the title of this volume suggests, Lori Wright evaluates the evidence for an environmental explanation of
the Classic-period Mayan collapse. To this end, she analyzes mortuary, bone chemical, and paleopathological
data from 261 human burials recovered from nine
archaeological sites spanning the entire Classic period
(900 BC–AD 950) in the Pasión region of the western
Guatemalan lowlands. Wright argues that in many cases
the evidence, especially the skeletal data, used to support theoretical models of the Mayan collapse has been
misinterpreted. By drawing on multiple lines of evidence, she asserts, accurate assessment of these apparently opposing theories is possible. The body of the
work begins with descriptions of the cultural history of
the Pasión region and the potential influences of sampling bias on the excavated skeletal material, a theme
that she returns to in her consideration of each set of
results. A description of skeletal demography by site and
period and the results of mortuary analyses follow.
also contextual information for the major historical
trends in morbidity and mortality in the Americas. The
focus on infectious disease is most useful for anthropologists, since it is these that interact most with a range of
biocultural and ecological factors. Although Grob makes
many general statements, and one may tire of looking at
each and every endnote to check the source for various
factoids and statistics, it is a very valuable resource for
undergraduate and graduate students and researchers
Department of Anthropology and
Ethnic Studies
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20626
Published online 15 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
Over the course of the next several chapters, Wright provides discussions, analyses, and descriptions of dietary
chemistry among the Pasión Maya, beginning with a
detailed overview of the theoretical foundations of the use
of elemental and isotopic data in bioarchaeology. She also
conducts a series of focused analyses designed to define the
elements and isotopes that contributed to the prehistoric
diet, including the potential influence of alkaline processing
of maize. Dietary chemistry has been extensively employed
to evaluate diet and migration patterns throughout the
Maya area. Wright builds upon prior studies, highlighting
some of their methodological shortcomings and how these
affected results to provide new interpretations of Mayan dietary complexity and social behavior. According to an environmental model, the contribution of cultigens should be
similar across sites and increase over time, except among
elites. The results of her analyses are contrary to these
expectations and instead indicate that the number of cultigens in the diet varied dramatically between sites, through
time, and across social classes.
The last three chapters examine the distribution of
enamel hypoplasias, periosteal reactions, and porotic
hyperostoses in the skeletal samples as a measure of
overall health and disease burden in the population. An
environmental model of decline would similarly predict
skeletal markers of stress and disease to have similar
prevalence across sites and increase over time—except
among elites—as diet and health decline. However,
Wright’s data demonstrate significant differences in pathology between sites and through time. The final chapter synthesizes all of the data. Wright concludes that significant heterogeneity existed in diet, health, and social
structure among the Pasión Maya and that there is little
evidence to support the hypothesis that environmental
degradation played a significant role in the collapse and
abandonment of the southern lowlands. This work is important because it counters one of the foundations of the
environmental explanation, the paleopathological analysis conducted by Frank Saul in the early seventies on
skeletons recovered from Altar de Sacrificios. Wright
uses new techniques, a more refined understanding of
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
social distinctions, and a regional approach to counter
these previous suppositions.
This volume is ideally suited for a professional audience. It contains a great deal of information presented in
a traditional academic style and covers several relatively
technical topics in detail. It would also be useful as a
resource for students as an example of a multidisciplinary approach to a broad research question. Wright does
an excellent job presenting a large amount of complex
data. Her descriptions of the arguments, each analysis,
and the final synthesis are well constructed, logically
organized, and provide a cohesive flow throughout the
work. I feel the book could be strengthened by the addition of basic visual aids (e.g., maps, site plans), which
would assist the reader in placing the sites and their
burial samples in the larger geographic context.
Granted, the preceding volume in this series presents
these materials, but I believe the strength of Wright’s
volume is its ability to stand alone and provide the interested reader with independent data, arguments, and
In Diet, Health, and Status among the Pasión Maya,
Lori Wright aptly considers information from the dimensions of mortuary analysis, dietary chemistry, and paleo-
pathology from burials of the Classic-period Pasión
Maya and synthesizes this data into a cohesive test of
traditional environmental explanations of the Maya collapse in the southern lowlands. She offers compelling
evidence that there is a great deal of heterogeneity in
diet, health, and social status within and between sites
in the region, as well as over time, and that this inherent heterogeneity does not support an environmental
model for Mayan collapse during the Classic period. This
book provides more fuel for the ongoing debate about
what factors led to the demise of one of the ancient
world’s greatest civilizations.
Department of Anthropology
Indiana University–Purdue University
Indianapolis, Indiana
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20627
Published online 15 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
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