Molecular Ecology and Evolution: Approaches and Applications. – book reviews
Thomas S. Kantz
The rapid development of molecular techniques in the past two decades has provided ecologists and evolutionary biologists with a host of exciting new tools. Schierwater, Streit, Wagner, and DeSalle provide a general overview of the impact that molecular techniques have had on the disciplines of ecology and evolution, including historical views, current studies, and possible future applications of molecular techniques. The book contains 36 chapters organized into four sections; each section contains a short introduction that places each chapter within the larger context.
Part one, “DNA fingerprinting and behavioral ecology,” includes reviews of common DNA fingerprinting techniques and their applications in studies of plants, insects, and birds. I was struck by how relevant these reviews were to the other sections of the book. Smith and Williams, Caetano-Anolles and Gresshoff, and Weising et al. specifically discuss the applications and limitations of various DNA fingerprinting techniques in population and phylogenetic studies. Westneat and Webster provide an excellent review of molecular studies of bird kinship and mating behavior. In addition, they review the various single locus and multilocus techniques available, and provide a compelling argument for integrating molecular studies with observational studies of behavior.
Part two, “Population biology,” includes chapters that review a variety of uses for molecular studies of plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate populations. The chapters by Amaro and Gatesy, Vogler, and O’Brien on conservation biology and genetics will be a source of interesting discussion in graduate seminar courses. Ashley and Dow, and Schlotterer and Pemberton review the utility of a relatively new method of genetic analysis of populations, that of microsatellites. Due to their versatility and ease of analysis, microsatellites may eventually replace isoenzymes in population studies. Powell gives an engagingly written historical review of molecular studies of population genetics. This chapter would be a good introduction to the literature for beginning graduate students or advanced undergraduates.
Part three, “Molecular systematics,” I found to be a well organized overview of important current issues in molecular systematics. Among other topics, chapters include discussions of distance data, discrete character data, sequence alignment, and vicariance biogeography. The article by Larson on the statistical evaluation of phylogenies from molecular and morphological data is sure to spark heated discussion in graduate seminars. Of equal interest to both population biologists and phylogeneticists is the article by Hey, which presents methods of using gene trees from multiple loci to study recent speciation events.
Part four, “Speciation, development and genome organization,” is an interesting collection of applications of molecular data for studies of speciation, evolutionary ecology, symbiosis, developmental biology, and genome evolution. After reading these chapters, one is struck by the enormous investigative power of molecular techniques; but, lest we be carried away by the tremendous utility of molecular approaches to ecological and evolutionary studies, Muller provides an anchor with a thought-provoking discussion of the limitations of molecular data for studying evolutionary origin of form and function.
Although this book is not intended to be a complete treatment of the types of molecular studies conducted or techniques available, it does an admirable job of showing the great range of ecological and evolutionary questions that can be answered with molecular techniques. It could serve as a supplemental resource for a graduate seminar, or as a source of examples in graduate and advanced undergraduate courses. As an introduction to the literature, it is an invaluable resource for researchers who would like to expand their own studies, or for beginning graduate students who are looking for interesting projects.
THOMAS S. KANTZ COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY Department of Biology Conway, South Carolina 29526
COPYRIGHT 1996 Ecological Society of America
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group