Chapter 3 Eco-innovation

In the chapter called Eco-innovation I describe how evolutionary processes have brought about an incredibly wide range of solutions to survival challenges, many of which already are (or could be) the basis of solutions to problems faced in the human world. The potential application of these natural innovations can be seen across, among other things, medicine, farming and engineering.

Page 77. The estimate that at least 25 to 50% of the value of the US pharmaceutical market is based on substances derived from wild species comes from TEEB. The source is:TEEB - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers 2009, Table 1 page 17.

Page 85. For an introduction on antibiotic resistance and how Streptomyces group of Actinobacteria might be a source of new antibiotics see for example: Ceylan, O. et al. (2008). Isolation of soil Streptomyces as source antibiotics active against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. EurAsian Journal of BioSciences 2, 73-82. This paper can be accessed on-line via:,9,73-82.pdf

Pages 86-87. I mention how a compound found in the blood of horseshoe crabs assists in ensuring the sterility of medical treatments used by humans. A good summary of how these animals assist in protecting human health can be found at:

Pages 87-88. For a way into the literature on cone snails and how they offer the prospect of developing powerful new painkillers, this piece from National Geographic is helpful:

Page 88. On how bark scorpions can help with the treatment of human heart disease then this link provides an introduction: There is a link from here to a paper published in the journal Cardiovascular Research. 

Page 88. On how luminous jellyfish cells can assist in the diagnosis of cancer, see this link to Science Daily:

Although I do not cite it directly, an excellent work on the many ways in which wildlife has been the source of so many innovations to protect and improve human health is: Chivian, E. and Bernstein, A. (editors), (2008). Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. Oxford University Press. ISBN-10: 0195175093. ISBN-13: 978-0195175097.

Page 89. On elephants’ gut enzymes being used to produce a more benign form of biofuel these two articles provide a summary: 

Page 90. On the subject of biomimcry there is a great deal written and published. In my book I mention Janine Benyus’s book Biomimicry. The full reference for this is: Benyus, J.M. (1997). Biomimicry : Innovation Inspired by Nature. ISBN 0-06-053322-6.

Page 90. For more on how nature can provide inspiration for engineering also see the International Society for Bionic Engineering:

Page 93. I also write in this chapter about plant breeding and how the diversity found in crop plants and their wild relatives is a vital resource for future food security. There is a lot written on this but an accessible summary has been produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and can be found at:

Page 97. On the rate of loss of genetic diversity in domesticated species, and what the implications of that might be, a good briefing on the issues at hand can be found in the briefing from FAO:

Page 99. When it comes to the total number of species living on Earth, this paper provides the most up to date estimate: Mora, C. Tittensor, DP. Adl, S. Simpson, AGB. Worm, B. (2011) How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean? PLoS Biol 9(8): e1001127. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127. This can be found at: A more popular summary of this research can be seen at:

Page 101. Toward the end of this chapter I write about the extinction of gastric brooding frogs. More information can be found on this subject at: