Marlene Zuk

Marlene Zuk (born May 20, 1956) is an American evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist. She worked as professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) until she transferred to the University of Minnesota in 2012. Her studies involve sexual selection and parasites.[2]

Marlene Zuk
Marlene Zuk, Palmerston North City Library.JPG
Born (1956-05-20) May 20, 1956 (age 64)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.[1]
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
University of Michigan
Spouse(s)John Rotenberry
Scientific career
FieldsEvolutionary biology, behavioral ecology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Riverside
University of Minnesota
ThesisSexual selection, mate choice and gregarine parasite levels in the field crickets Gryllus veletis and G. pennsylvanicus (1986)


Zuk was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania[1] and she is a native to Los Angeles.[3] living in the city, she became interested in insects at a young age. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Zuk started majoring in English, but decided to switch to Biology.[4] After earning her bachelor's degree, she wrote and taught for three years.[5]

In 1982, she and W. D. Hamilton proposed the "good genes" hypothesis of sexual selection.[6] Zuk started attending the University of Michigan in 1986 and earned her Doctor of Philosophy.[5][7] She completed her postdoctoral research at the University of New Mexico.[5] She joined the UCR faculty in 1989.[3] In April 2012, Zuk and her husband John Rotenberry transferred to the University of Minnesota, where they both work at its College of Biological Sciences.[4]

Zuk has received honorary doctorates from Sweden's Uppsala University (2010) and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland (2016).[8]


Research InterestsEdit

Zuk's research of interest deals with the evolution of sexual behavior (especially in relation to parasites), mate choice, and Animal behavior.[2] A recurring theme in Zuk's writing and lectures is feminism and women in science.[4] Zuk is critical of the paleolithic diet.[9] In 1996 Zuk was awarded a continuing grant by the National Science Foundation for an investigation into the ways that variation in females effects sexual selection and what qualities in males indicate vigor.[10]

Women in ScienceEdit

Zuk is outspoken about promoting women in science. In 2018, Zuk was published in the Los Angeles Times. Her Op-Ed, "There's nothing inherent about the fact that men outnumber women in the sciences"[11] countered recurring suggestions that women are underrepresented in scientific fields due to inherent preferences toward the humanities. By highlighting the inextricable relationship between nature and nurture, she points out the impossibility of attributing female underrepresentation in science to any inborn cause. Citing essential scientific integrity, she argues that until boys and girls are raised under identical circumstances one could not possibly prove any inherent female leanings towards or away from the sciences.[12]

Selected worksEdit

Her books and articles include:[2]

  • Heritable true fitness and bright birds: a role for parasites? (1982). Science.
  • Sexual Selections: what we can and can't learn about sex from animals, (2002). University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0520240759.
  • Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are, (2007). Harcourt, Inc., New York. ISBN 978-0156034685.
  • "Can bugs improve your sex life?" (August 1, 2011). Wall Street Journal.
  • Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World, (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York. ISBN 978-0151013739.
  • "Bring on the aerial ant sex" (2012). Los Angeles Times, April 29.
  • "Anthropomorphism: A Peculiar Institution" (2012). The Scientist 26: 66–67.
  • Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, (2013). W. W. Norton & Company, New York. ISBN 978-0393347920.

College LeadershipEdit

Zuk is a professor in the department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences. She is the Associate Dean for Faculty.[2]

Awards and HonorsEdit

In 2015 Zuk was the recipient of the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award by the American Society of Naturalists.[13][14]

Zuk was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017,[15][16] and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019.[17]

The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology named their scholarship award for outstanding oral presentation in the division of animal behavior after her.[18]


  1. ^ a b Henderson, Andrea Kovacs, ed. (2010). "Zuk, Marlene". American Men & Women of Science. 7 T–Z (28th ed.). Detroit, Michigan: Gale. p. 1078. ISBN 978-1-4144-4558-8.
  2. ^ a b c d "Professor Marlene Zuk". College of Biological Sciences. University of Michigan. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Pittalwala, Iqbal (April 5, 2007). "UCR Newsroom: Can Disease Be Our Friend?". UCR Newsroom. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Leigh, Blake (May 30, 2012). "CBS hires bug sexpert Marlene Zuk". Minnesota Daily. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Dr. Marlene Zuk". X-STEM – Extreme STEM Symposium. USA Science and Engineering Festival. Archived from the original on January 7, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Combes, Claude (October 1, 2005). The Art of Being a Parasite. University of Chicago Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-226-11438-5. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  7. ^ "Marlene Zuk". UCR Department of Biology. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  8. ^ "Finnish University Honors Zuk | College of Biological Sciences". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  9. ^ "Scientist says paleo diet is not always based on way evolution really works". May 14, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  10. ^ "NSF Award Search: No Award Found". Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  11. ^ "Op-Ed: There's nothing inherent about the fact that men outnumber women in the sciences". Los Angeles Times. March 11, 2018. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  12. ^ "Marlene Zuk and Susan D. Jones: COVID-19 is not your great-grandfather's flu — comparisons with 1918 are overblown". Greeley Tribune. April 3, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  13. ^ "Zuk receives naturalist award | College of Biological Sciences". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  14. ^ "Edward O. Wilson Award". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  15. ^ "Award-Winning Faculty and Staff | College of Biological Sciences". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  16. ^ "Marlene Zuk". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  17. ^ "CCS Alumna Elected to the National Academy of Sciences".
  18. ^ "Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology". Retrieved March 5, 2020.

External linksEdit