Evolution: Making Sense of Life (Hardback)

  • Zimmer, Carl
  • Emlen, Douglas J. (University of Montana)
Copyright Year:2013
Specifications:720 pages, hardback, printed in four colors
Publication Status:Published on August 17, 2012.

Regular Price: $125.00

Special Price: $100.00

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Evolution: Making Sense of Life (Hardback)

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There is a newer edition of this title. See ISBN 9781936221554 or this link

About this Title

Science writer Carl Zimmer and evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen have teamed up to write a textbook intended for biology majors that will inspire students while delivering a solid foundation in evolutionary biology. Zimmer brings the same story-telling skills he displayed in The Tangled Bank, his 2009 non-majors textbook that the Quarterly Review of Biology called “spectacularly successful.” Emlen, an award-winning evolutionary biologist at the University of Montana, has infused Evolution: Making Sense of Life with the technical rigor and conceptual depth that today’s biology majors require. Students will learn the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory, such as natural selection, genetic drift, phylogeny, and coevolution. Evolution: Making Sense of Life also drives home the relevance of evolution for disciplines ranging from conservation biology to medicine. With riveting stories about evolutionary biologists at work everywhere from the Arctic to tropical rain forests to hospital wards, the book is a reading adventure designed to grab the imagination of the students, showing them exactly why it is that evolution makes such brilliant sense of life.

About the Authors

Carl Zimmer is one of the country’s leading science writers. A columnist for The New York Times and a regular contributor to magazines like Scientific American and National Geographic, he is the author of thirteen books, including Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea and A Planet of Viruses. Zimmer is a lecturer at Yale University, where he teaches science writing. He is a three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award and the winner of the National Academies Communication Award. You can learn more at the author's website: www.carlzimmer.com.

Douglas J. Emlen is a professor at the University of Montana.  He is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, multiple research awards from the National Science Foundation, including their five-year CAREER award, and a Young Investigator Prize and the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists. His is the author of Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle and his research has been featured in outlets including the New York Times and National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Science Friday.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Virus and the Whale: How Scientists Study Evolution

Chapter 2: Biology: From Natural Philosophy to Darwin

Chapter 3: What the Rocks Say: How Geology and Paleontology Reveal the History of Life

Chapter 4: The Tree of Life: How Biologists Use Phylogeny to Reconstruct the Deep Past

Chapter 5: Raw Material: Heritable Variation among Individuals

Chapter 6: The Ways of Change: Drift, and Selection

Chapter 7: Beyond Alleles: Quantitative Genetics and the Evolution of Phenotypes

Chapter 8: Natural Selection: Empirical Studies in the Wild

Chapter 9: The History in Our Genes

Chapter 10: Adaptation: From Genes to Traits

Chapter 11: Sex: Causes and Consequences

Chapter 12: After Conception: The Evolution of Parental Care and Life Histories 

Chapter 13: The Origin of Species 

Chapter 14: Macroevolution: The Long Run (With Kevin Padian, University of California, Berkeley)

Chapter 15: Intimate Partnership: How Species Adapt to Each Other

Chapter 16: Minds and Microbes: The Evolution of Behavior

Chapter 17: Human Evolution: A New Kind of Ape 

Chapter 18: Evolutionary Medicine

Interactive App for the iPad

The app was produced in collaboration with Dr. Alison Perkins at the University of Montana. Dr. Perkins is a journalist, a PhD biologist, and a specialist in biology education. She studies student and public misconceptions about evolution. With a team of artists and coders, the authors have re-imagined how to best teach certain topics, in many cases taking students from reading passively to actively manipulating concepts. Readers can purchase the entire book for $79.99 or individual chapters (price per chapter ranges from $4.99 to $9.99). Features include:

  • Quiz questions at the end of every section that test students’ comprehension as they read. The questions not only provide immediate feedback to help the reader stay on track, but they also address many common misconceptions about evolution. 
  • Many animations, simulations, and videos that help students see the relevance of evolution and gain a deeper conceptual understanding and appreciation of the science.
  • A “build your own” study guide, which can include content from the text, reader notes, and instructor notes.

See iTunes iTunes for more information. 

SimBio Software

We have partnered with SimBio to bring your students a discount on SimBio Virtual Labs when used in conjunction with Evolution: Making Sense of Life. SimBio's suite of virtual labs is the most sophisticated collection of virtual experiments available for teaching evolutionary biology. They cover the spectrum of evolution topics including natural selection, population genetics, reconstructing evolutionary trees and more. See the following link for all the pricing details.


Art and PowerPoint Slides: We can send you all the artwork and the majority of the photographs in JPEG format for your classroom instruction. Also, Jeremy Bono at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, is producing PowerPoint slides that you can customize for your class. If you would like copies of these items, please contact the publisher. We will email you a link to download the images.

Test item file: Dr. Jeremy Bono of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has written a test bank the matches the topics of the textbook. There are about 25 questions per chapter. If you would like access to this material, please contact the publisher.

In the Light of Evolution edited by Jonathan Losos. Many instructors have chosen to augment their course with essays from this recently published collection. As David Quammen says in his foreword, the book collects "reports from the field, plainspoken descriptions of lifetime obsessions, hard-earned bits of wisdom, and works in progress, pried loose from some of the most interesting, eminent researchers in evolutionary biology." Some of the essays give a good sense of how evolutionary scientists approach their profession. To see the line-up of scientists, please see the book description. For instructors who adopt Zimmer and Emlen'sEvolution: Making Sense of Life, we're offering three essays for use in the classroom at no charge. To learn more about the print and electronic packaging options, please contact the publisher

Answers to Short-Answer Questions: Students and instructors can download the answers to the essay questions at this location.

Advanced Praise

Exciting is a word not often used to describe a new textbook. But by using powerful examples, beautiful images, and finely wrought prose, Zimmer and Emlen have produced a book that not only conveys the explanatory power of evolution, but is also permeated with the joy of doing science. Their text can only be described as an exciting moment for our field: it is an important accomplishment for our students and for evolutionary biology at large.” Neil Shubin, University of Chicago

“If there was ever a book that makes it obvious why evolution is a fascinating topic—and a topic that goes to the core of understanding what biology is about—this is it. It truly makes you better understand and appreciate the biological world around us.” Svante Pääbo, Director, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

“A richly illustrated and very clearly written text, Evolution: Making Sense of Life brings forth the excitement, power, and importance of modern evolutionary biology in an accessible, yet sophisticated overview of the field.” Sean B. Carroll, University of Wisconsin, Madison

“Two master craftsmen in the art of scientific communication have combined to produce an excellent basic text on Evolution: it informs, explains, teaches, and inspires. The illustrations are outstanding.” Peter R. Grant, Princeton University

“Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen have captured in this stunning new book the excitement and richness of twenty-first-century evolutionary biology. They describe clearly and elegantly not only what, but also how, we are learning about evolutionary processes and the patterns they produce. The writing is compelling, the illustrations beautiful and truly informative, and the balance between breadth and depth of discussion on each topic just right. This is a book that would make anyone think about becoming an evolutionary biologist, today.” John N. Thompson, University of California, Santa Cruz

“This is not your grandmother’s evolution text. Breathtakingly illustrated, this book covers not only the usual topics in evolution—adaptation, drift, phylogenetic analysis—but also a host of new and exciting areas where groundbreaking research is occurring. It also shows how evolutionary biology is done, with glimpses of the real people behind the discoveries.” Marlene Zuk, University of Minnesota

“Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated, here's a superb textbook that can do double duty gracing the coffee table. This book is bound to attract many more students into the field of evolutionary biology.” Richard E. Lenski, Michigan State University

“I think my students will be genuinely more at ease with their reading assignments and more able to assimilate and retain information from this text. The authors use their expert narrative skills to focus on the big conceptual ideas, which is what matters most in my students’ long-term education.” Bronwyn H. Bleakley, Stonehill College

“Evolution: Making Sense of Life provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of the field of evolutionary biology. The text contains beautiful illustrations and up-to-date examples from recent research articles. The depth and breadth of the material, ranging from bacteria to humans, will be of interest to students, faculty, and the general public alike.” Sarah Tishkoff, University of Pennsylvania