"The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life" by David Quammen

Humans have about 8% virus DNA in our bodies. Who knew.

It might be time to rethink our notion of the evolutionary tree of life. Turns out that life on earth isn't simply the development of simple to more complex organisms. It is that, but it is something else too.

Humans are related to viruses and bacteria as well as chimps and other sapiens.  All along the path of evolution, DNA from one species is able to move over to another.

Horizontal gene transfer might sound like something done in a laboratory, like putting a squid gene in a rabbit so it might glow.  Weird as that sounds, it has been done.  But It turns out it is more normal than was once understood.  Sharing DNA between species has been a part of evolution since life began.

Science writer David Quammen says perhaps a better metaphor than a tree might be an elaborate topiary.  The Tangled tree: A Radical New History of Life,”  explores the new scientific understanding that tangles up the "tree of life" metaphor.    

I spoke with Quammen a few weeks before his September 10, 2018 talk about his new book for Town Hall at Pigott Auditorium on the Seattle University campus.