Jared Diamond

My research lies at the interface between molecular biology and evolutionary biology, and focuses on the evolutionary design of biological "capacities" through natural selection. Examples of biological capacities include the Vmax of an enzyme or transporter, the number of ion permeation channels, the mass of a tissue, and the strength of a bone. Most current biological research is concerned with the proximate mechanisms responsible for setting capacities, such as rates of protein synthesis and degradation. However, there is also a little-explored problem of ultimate causation: what are the selective factors that result in capacities being expressed at their actual levels, rather than at some higher or lower levels? Observed biological safety factors (ratios of capacities to maximum natural loads) fall mostly in the range 1.2 - 5; why not higher? Large safety factors obviously increase performance but also incur costs: at the molecular level, are excess capacities limited by biosynthetic energy, occupied space, or other costs?

To study these problems, my lab uses nutrient transporters and hydrolases. We push animals to ceilings of metabolic rate, compare their transporter and enzyme capacities with dietary substrate loads, calculate safety factors, and compare safety factors of reaction steps arranged in series. We thereby seek to understand the observed natural variation in biological safety factors, and to identify limiting factors for biological performance.


  • PhD, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • BA, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA


  • Integrative and Evolutionary Physiology
  • Regulation of Nutrient Transport

Selected Publications

  • Diamond, Jared M. The world until yesterday : what can we learn from traditional societies. London: Allen Lane, 2012. 
  • Diamond, Jared M., and James A. Robinson. Natural experiments of history. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010. 
  • Diamond, Jared M. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Penguin, 2006. 
  • Diamond, Jared M. Guns, germs, and steel : the fates of human societies. New York: Norton, 2005.
  • Secor, SM Diamond, J Adaptive responses to feeding in Burmese pythons: pay before pumping.. The Journal of experimental biology. . 1995; 198(Pt 6): 1313-25.
  • Secor, S. M., Stein, E. D. and Diamond, J. M. Rapid up-regulation of snake intestine in response to feeding: a new model of intestinal adaptation.. Am. J. Physiol. 1994; 266(4): G695-G705.
  • Ferraris, RP Diamond, JM Crypt/villus site of substrate-dependent regulation of mouse intestinal glucose transporters.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. . 1993; 90(12): 5868-72.