Evolution in a Toxic World

How Life Responds to Chemical Threats

  • Emily Monosson

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. An Introduction

    1. Emily Monosson
      Pages 1-12
  3. Element

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 13-13
    2. Emily Monosson
      Pages 32-47
    3. Emily Monosson
      Pages 48-64
  4. Plant and Animal

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 65-65
    2. Emily Monosson
      Pages 66-81
    3. Emily Monosson
      Pages 82-99
    4. Emily Monosson
      Pages 100-115
    5. Emily Monosson
      Pages 116-130
  5. Human

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 131-131
    2. Emily Monosson
      Pages 132-147
    3. Emily Monosson
      Pages 148-159
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 161-223

About this book


With BPA in baby bottles, mercury in fish, and lead in computer monitors, the world has become a toxic place. But as Emily Monosson demonstrates in her groundbreaking new book, it has always been toxic. When oxygen first developed in Earth's atmosphere, it threatened the very existence of life: now we literally can't live without it. According to Monosson, examining how life adapted to such early threats can teach us a great deal about today's (and tomorrow's) most dangerous contaminants. While the study of evolution has advanced many other sciences, from conservation biology to medicine, the field of toxicology has yet to embrace this critical approach.

In Evolution in a Toxic World, Monosson seeks to change that. She traces the development of life's defense systems—the mechanisms that transform, excrete, and stow away potentially harmful chemicals—from more than three billion years ago to today. Beginning with our earliest ancestors' response to ultraviolet radiation, Monosson explores the evolution of chemical defenses such as antioxidants, metal binding proteins, detoxification, and cell death.

As we alter the world's chemistry, these defenses often become overwhelmed faster than our bodies can adapt. But studying how our complex internal defense network currently operates, and how it came to be that way, may allow us to predict how it will react to novel and existing chemicals. This understanding could lead to not only better management and preventative measures, but possibly treatment of current diseases. Development of that knowledge starts with this pioneering book.


Biology Chemistry Evolution Toxic

Authors and affiliations

  • Emily Monosson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

Bibliographic information