Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution

Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution

Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution

Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution

Synopsis

Called "one of the most successful synthetic thinkers in modern biology" by E.O. Wilson, Lynn Margulis has made a career of proposing wild, improbable ideas that later became mainstream science. In this fascinating volume, she shows that cooperation has been as potent a force as competition in the evolution of life.

Margulis taps her vast fund of landmark ideas to show how natural systems working together have guided the course of existence on our planet. She proposes that there are five kingdoms of life rather that just two, a theory that ignited a fierce debate but ultimately changed biologists' most basic map of the living world. From there Margulis presents a compelling case for the importance of symbiosis in not only the emergence of higher organisms but in the evolution of sex, movement, minds, and life on land. Symbiotic Planet will be eagerly sought by anyone with a taste for truly visionary science.

Excerpt

A Bee his burnished Carriage
Drove boldly to a Rose -
Combinedly alighting -
Himself — (1339)

Symbiosis, the system in which members of different species live in physical contact, strikes us as an arcane concept and a specialized biological term. This is because of our lack of awareness of its prevalence. Not only are our guts and eyelashes festooned with bacterial and animal symbionts, but if you look at your backyard or community park, symbionts are not obvious but they are omnipresent. Clover and vetch, common weeds, have little balls on their roots. These are the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are essential for healthy growth in nitrogen-poor soil. Then take the trees, the maple, oak, and hickory. As many as three hundred different fungal symbionts, the mycorrhizae we notice as mushrooms, are entwined in their roots. Or look at a dog, who usually fails to notice the symbiotic worms in his gut. We are symbionts on a symbiotic planet, and if we care to, we can find symbiosis everywhere. Physical contact is a nonnegotiable requisite for many differing kinds of life.

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