Seasons of Life


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The Biological Rhythms That Enable Living Things to Thrive and Survive

Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman

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How do plants and animals “know” that the seasons will change? How do seasonal changes affect humans? What happens when the timing of seasonal events is altered?

Just as daily events are timed by living creatures through circadian rhythms, so seasonal events are timed through an internal calendar that signals birds to return to nesting grounds, salmon to spawn, plants to flower, squirrels to hibernate, kelp to stop growing.

In this fascinating book, Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman draw on remarkable recent scientific advances to explain how seasonal change affects organisms, and how plants and animals over countless generations have evolved exquisite sensitivities and adaptations to the seasons. The authors also highlight the impact of seasonal change on human health and well-being. They conclude with a discussion of the dangers posed when climate changes disrupt the seasonal rhythms on which so much life depends.

Surprising facts from Seasons of Life:
–The timing of human birth has a small  but significant effect on various later life attributes, such as handedness and the susceptibility to many illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
–Plants have the ability to measure the length of a period of light, and they germinate, flower, and successfully reproduce by using this information.
–Birds migrate not in response to weather changes but by using an internal calendar.
–Until recently, human birth was tightly coupled to the seasons, peaking in many societies in the spring.
–Just as internal 24-hour circadian clocks predict daily change, many animals have a circannual clock in their brains that predicts the seasons.

Russell G. Foster is Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Leon Kreitzman is a science writer and broadcaster, a respected futurologist, and author of The 24 Hour Society. The authors live in Oxford and London.

“An excellent explanation of an original theme:  how geophysical variation leads to biological adaptation and, in turn, to measurable behavioral and phenotypic consequences. This is an important causal chain that is rarely articulated."—Daniel Rock, Co-Director, Centre for Clinical Research in Neuropsychiatry, The University of Western Australia

“Well conceived and beautifully written, Seasons of Life is a lucid and engaging exploration of seasonal rhythms in all living things.”—Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream:  A Day in the Life of Your Body

"This is a fascinating read on a less publicized feature of biological calendars." —R. A. Hoots, Choice

"Much has been written about the circadian clock. Foster and Kreitzman focus on the less familiar circannual clock, which governs responses to seasonal changes and tells animals when to mate, migrate or hibernate – and plants when to grow and shed leaves. A complicated story but a joy to read." — Clive Cookson, Financial Times

"Seasons of Life is a joy to read, and a compelling text on the importance of seasonality in the evolution of life on Earth."—Nature

"This book is both pleasant and educational.  It provides an excellent introduction to biological rhythms in the annual time scale.  It is a great choice for scientifically literate audiences." —Roberto Refinetti, Quarterly Review of Biology

 “This tour-de-force addresses everything from feedback regulation of clock proteins to how migrating animals who navigate by the sun compensate for its apparent daily motion. Elegant prose and clear diagrams make even the most complex physiology comprehensible. A must read for anyone who has ever looked up at a migrating skein of geese and wondered ‘how do they know …?’”—Adrian Barnett, New Scientist



One of the Financial Times's Books of the Year in 2009 in the Science category.

Finalist for the 2009 Book of the Year Award, presented by ForeWord magazine
ISBN: 9780300167863
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
320 pages, 5 13/16 x 9
40 b/w illus.

Sales Restrictions: For sale in North America only
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