Power, Sex, Suicide

Mitochondria are cool, important, and fascinating. You know the basic story. Mitochondria are the result of endosymbiosis. A bacterim or bacteria-like organism insinuated itself into another bacterium or bacteria-like organism. The former was small, the latter large. A relationship started up whereby the smaller one became an organelle in the larger one, and Eukaryotic life was formed. You probably also know that in multi-celled organisms mitochondria may be passed on by one sex (female) so paleogenetic research can sort out female lineages by looking only at the DNA found in the mitochondria (mtDNA). But there are things that perhaps you did not know, like the relationship between the whole mitochondria thing and why sex exists, various diseases including cancer, and aging (of cells and of organisms). Also, mitochondria related to organismic complexity, warm bloodedness, and a range of other basic biological facts of life.

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane is a bold and largely successful attempt at tying this all together in an engaging and informative way.

I know some teachers who read the book and have found much useful current, integrative material for use in their advanced biology classes. That's a hint: If you know a life science teacher, this is a great stocking stuffer!

More like this

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life. From the publisher: If it weren't for mitochondria, scientists argue, we'd all still be single-celled bacteria. Indeed, these tiny structures inside our cells are important beyond imagining. Without mitochondria, we would have no cell…
Since the first living things appeared on the planet, the biggest among them have become increasingly bigger. Over 3.6 billion years of evolution, life's maximum size has shot up by 16 orders of magnitude - about 10 quadrillion times - from single cells to the massive sequoias of today (below…
My direct experience with prokaryotes is sadly limited — while our entire lives and environment are profoundly shaped by the activity of bacteria, we rarely actually see the little guys. The closest I've come was some years ago, when I was doing work on grasshopper embryos, and sterile technique…
They say that size doesn't matter, but try telling that to bacteria. Most are very small, for they rely heavily on passive diffusion to ferry important nutrients and molecules across their membranes. To ensure that this happens quickly enough, bacteria need to ensure that their surface area is…

You're right, a great and useful book. His Oxygen is another worth a look for those teaching introductory biology, as well as for its own sake.

Love this book. Thus far, love all his stuff.

By Mike Olson (not verified) on 20 Dec 2012 #permalink

"A relationship started up whereby the smaller one became an organelle in the larger one, and Eukaryotic life was formed."
Serious overstatement!
Endosymbiosis with a protomitochondrion was only one of many steps involved in the evolution of eukaryotes.

Djlactin, indeed it involved more steps. But here I'm telling you about the book, not providing you with the book!

ger age than we allow them to be exposed to the beauty of our bodies. We make it taboo while glorifying violence and bloodshed.

By select lash (not verified) on 24 Dec 2012 #permalink