Evolution Episode 4: Evolutionary Arms Race

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Evolution Episode 4: Evolutionary Arms Race
PBS Documentary

Survival of the fittest: Raw competition? Intense cooperation? Both are essential. Interactions between and within species are among the most powerful evolutionary forces on Earth, and understanding them may be a key to our own survival.

Series Overview

Evolution determines who lives, who dies, and who passes traits on to the next generation. The process plays a critical role in our daily lives, yet it is one of the most overlooked -- and misunderstood -- concepts ever described.

The Evolution project's eight-hour television miniseries travels the world to examine evolutionary science and the profound effect it has had on society and culture. From the genius and torment of Charles Darwin to the scientific revolution that spawned the tree of life, from the power of sex to drive evolutionary change to the importance of mass extinctions in the birth of new species, the Evolution series brings this fascinating process to life. The series also explores the emergence of consciousness, the origin and success of humans, and the perceived conflict between science and religion in understanding life on Earth.

The Evolution series' goals are to heighten public understanding of evolution and how it works, to dispel common misunderstandings about the process, and to illuminate why it is relevant to all of us.


Complete program description for educators

Episode 4: The Evolutionary Arms Race


Chapter 1. Prologue (2:23)

Introduction to the show's theme: the "arms race" between predator and prey as a driving force in evolution.

Example where a microbe is predator, humans are prey
Russian prisons have spawned a deadly microbe
If we harness evolution, can we reach a truce with this enemy?


Chapter 2. Newts, Snakes, and Co-Evolution (7:33)

Biological forces driving species' evolution

Why is the rough-skinned newt so poisonous?
Garter snakes' high resistance to toxicity and the evolutionary benefits and costs
Predators evolving to defeat prey, and prey evolving to evade predators


Chapter 3. Microscopic Predators (3:02)

Infectious diseases and the invention of antibiotics

Disease-causing microorganisms are modern humans' only predator
The development of antibiotics in the early 20th century
The mistaken belief that science had defeated infectious diseases


Chapter 4. The Tuberculosis Epidemic (13:57)

The rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Russia

Overcrowded Russian prisons: ground zero for a new tuberculosis (TB) epidemic
What is tuberculosis? How is it contracted?
Two personal stories of TB: a prisoner and a young medical student
The evolution of drug-resistant TB strains and scientists' efforts to fight back
Are we prepared for an epidemic? Using DNA "fingerprints" to track the global spread of TB


Chapter 5. Domesticating Germs (5:24)

Understanding and harnessing the power of microbe evolution

Can we drive microbes to evolve in ways that benefit us?
The connection between a microbe's harmfulness and its transmission
South America's cholera epidemic: an example of evolution in action


Chapter 6. Survival of the Wild Cats (6:52)

Studying resistance to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and parallels to HIV

Domestic cats suffer from FIV
Virus-resistant mutations and why wild cats are safe from FIV
Are there humans with HIV-resistant mutations? Resistance and the bubonic plague


Chapter 7. Symbiosis and Leafcutter Ants (10:11)

Cooperation as a driving factor in evolution

Definition and examples of mutualistic symbiosis
Symbiosis in the rainforest: leafcutter ants and their cultivated fungus
Parallels between ant and human agriculture and pest management
Microbes: the base of the world's complex ecosystems


Chapter 8. Good Germs (7:08)

Microbes helping, not harming, humans

Are too-clean environments harming our immune systems?
Humans evolved surrounded, and supported, by microbes
Humans, the only species aware of evolution and its history

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