Nothing lives alone

dot Lynn Margulis,

Symbiotic Planet,

[ A New Look at Evolution ], (New York, Basic Books, 1998).clip


 1 Symbiosis Everywhere

 2 Against Orthodoxy

 3 Individuality by incorporation

 4 the Name of the Vine

 5 Life from Scum

 6 Sex Legacy

 7 Ashore

 8 Gaia

 "As a species we cling to the familiar comforting conformities of the mainstream. However,'convention' penetrates more deeply then we tend to admit. Even if we lack a proper name for and knowledge of the history of any specific philosophy or thought style, all of us are embedded in our own safe 'reality.' Our outlooks shape what we see and how we know. Any idea we conceive as fact of truth is integrated into an entire style of thought, of which we are usually unaware."

Pp. 2-3.

Is symbiosis everywhere?


"Call the cultural constraints 'trained incapacities,' thought collectives,'social constructions of reality.' "

p. 3.

These constraints or limitations are powerful biases that shape our understanding of who we are, what we are doing, where we are and how nature works.

"Like those of everyone else, the scientists hidden assumption affect his or her behavior, unwittingly directing thought."

p. 3.

Symbiosis, "our lack of awareness of its prevalence."

 "symbionts are not obvious, but they are omnipresent"
"we are symbionts on a symbiotic planet."

 "Physical contact is a nonnegotiable requisite."

p. 5.

Ivan E., Wallin, he believed that "new species arise though symbiosis."


fruit flies bread in progressively warmer temperatures, eventually became distinct form the parent or originating species.

p. 7

"That turned out to have something to do with a parasite." !

 "Symbioses are like flashes of evolutionary lightening."


Platymonas, single celled green algae in worms on the coast of France, Brittany


"we animals, all thirty million species of us, emanate from the microcosm. The microbial world, the source and well spring of soil and air, informs our own survival."


chlorella, Ophrydium balls of jelly embedding green chlorella algae

 Kefir is symbiotic -- 25 different kinds of bacteria and yeast

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2 : Against Orthodoxy


Margulis recalls her Collegiate training by saying:
"I adored Crow's general genetics course: it changed my life."
The superb science of the University of Chicago...

"Human and other animal consciousness, as well as other types of biological beauty and complexity are properties of our coevolving, pointillist bacterial ancestry."

 "cellular inter-living,... produced everything from spring-green blooms, to warm, wet mammalian bodies..."

p. 20.

"All beings alive today are equally evolved."

p. 20.

"The findings of the importance of symbiosis in evolution have forced us to revise the earlier nucleocentric view of evolution as a bloody struggle of animals.

pp. 19-20.

"...symbiosis, beginning as an uneasy alliance of distinct life-forms, may underlie the origin of major evolutionary novelty."

p. 20.

"The genes in other words are not necessarily in the nucleus."

 "the mitochondria contain their own genes."

p. 22.

We were taught how, through science, we could go about to answering important philosophical questions."

What are we?
Of what are we and the universe made?
Where do we come from?
How do we work?
p. 23.

"a set of methods that are honest, open, accessible, and energetic seems hardly to exist in the 'technological fix' mentality of today."


"Realization that the emphasis on connecting genetics to chemistry had unnecessarily given scientists too narrow a perspective , one overly focused on the nucleus, was my jumping off point."


plastids and mitochondria apparently had there own peculiar genes outside of the cell nucleus.


"Genetics ... Still seemed to me to be the key to evolutionary history."


hard to distinguish blue green bacterium embedded in sells and chloroplasts, based on function and behavior.

SET Serial endosymbiosis theory and Symbiogenesis : complex cells, the eukaryots of which we are made --were produced by symbiosis among primary bacterial forms.


SET Serial endosymbiosis Theory.

p. 31

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3 : Individuality by incorporation.

coined in 1873, by German botanist, Anton deBary, living together of very different kinds of organisms.

p. 33.

Sym + biosis

[Latin: with + living] ; living with or living together, coexisting on shared resources.
Specifically: the existence of two distinct species of organisms in such a manner that the genetic success of one is tied to the genetic success of the other.


type of Being producing species consuming species

lichens algae + fungus
corals zooxanthelae algae + animal polyp
legumes cyanobacter root nodules + plants
rhododendron mycorrhizae fungus + forest trees (plants)
termites gut bacteria + other gut bacteria
Not a special case in biology but an obvious successful pattern.

Question: Did bacteria build plants, animals and fungus in order to best survive extreme conditions, competition for scarce resources, or to establish new territories in which to thrive?

Spirochetes become undulipodia (motile bacteria become an organelle to move cytoplasm)

p. 35.

Cyanobacteria are relatives of chloroplast

p. 36.

mitochondria are relatives of oxygen breathing bacteria

p. 38.

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4 : The name of the Vine

 "names of living beings seem harmless enough."

taxonomy defined as a means of classification for the overwhelming number of different organisms.



 "...such trees are idealized representations of the past. In reality the tree of life often grows in on itself."

Anastomosis, branches forming nets"


Ivan Wllin's 1920s suggestion that chloroplasts and mitochondria "originated as symbiotic bacteria."


17th century origin of bacteria as an identifiable group, classified as "animalcules"

 "Language can confuse and deceive."


"Most bacteria a no more harmful than air..."

Wallins' colleagues confused the map with the territory."


The idea of plants, animals, and germs "this idea is as dangerous as it is prevalent"


Ernst Haeckel added protists to van Leeuwenhoek's animalcules


Linnean system, late 1700s,


Haeckel's championing of evolution
established Monera as the phyla for radiolarians and foraminiferans


Herbert Copeland
took the term (1860) "protictista" from Ernst Haeckel and in 1956 subdivided the Monera kingdom dividing microbial life into two distinct branches.


Whittaker at Cornell refined Copeland's separation of bacterial realms of life in 1959.

Five kingdom system:


"All protoctists evolved from bacterial symbiosis."


protoctista gave rise to plants, animals and fungus.


/ Zoomastigotes ----------> Animals

Protoctista --- Chlorophytes -------------------->Plants

\ Chytrids --------------------------------------> Fungi


"viruses today spread genes among bacteria and human and other cells."


Prokarya versus eukarya as major divisions in the five kingdoms.


Carl Woese three domain system: (RNA based, RNA for building) ribosomes differ from one another.



Organelles are smaller than eukaryotic cells and are embedded in the body of the cell surrounded by the cell wall, or membrane; a ribosome is such an organelle, one of many, but it is essential for life.

The ribosomes are the place in the cell where transfer RNA inserts a cloned section of DNA from the nuclei and the place in the cell where proteins are constructed from the available amino acids.

"The move toward evolution based taxonomic classification systems has taken hold."


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5: Life from Scum

seashore mats -- photosynthetic bacteria in worms, such that the worms lose their capacity to use their mouths, originally used for eating.

"These colorful seaside expanses, called 'microbial mats,' enchant me-- a living landscape just where the sea meets and rolls back and forth over the land"

 "death is part of life."


"The properties of minimal bacterial life, first life, can be inferred by several approaches."

1 comparatively what do all living things have in common?


2 paleobiology -- microfossils in rocks of particular ages.
3 attempt (lab) to remake a cell
4 the bacterial cell, today's minimal unit of life, where we must begin."
5 "Prelife, with a suitable source of energy, inside a greasy membrane, grew chemically complex."

Harold J. Morowitz "amusing book on mayonnaise.


3.5 billion year old rock from South Africa, Swaziland, oldest bacterial evidence.


Event Age percent ratio of duration
Big Bang singularity, 20,000 million years ago 100%  
Earth 4,600 million years ago 23% >1:5
life 3,500 million years ago 17.5% >1:6

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6. Sex Legacy

"when bacteria wildly reproduce they need no sex to do it. The bacterial sex that responds to certain environmental contingencies is occasional."


Sexual processes, the merger of attracted beings, probably originated as did the early symbiosis."

"meiotic sex began long after bacterial sex as abortive cannibalism in certain protists."

"Symbiogenesis is far more splendid than sex as a generator of evolutionary novelty."


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Sex here emerges as a kind of median or medial along a spectrum from intimacy and living together to separation.





living together left   right living apart
Sex --------------------- (remoteness)

"programmed death is a nonnegotiable consequence of the sexual mode of life."

"is linked intimately with the imperative of plants and animals to die."


"Animals, all of them, an essential 30 million species belonging to nearly forty phyla, revert to a single-cell protist -like stage in each generation.... Mortality is the price they pay..."
Burgess Shale Anomalocaris
A diverse array of creatures Burgess shale fund in Canada.
The main predator of this shallow seas was Anomalocaris.


The Cambrian, (Preston Cloud)

"All animals are aerobes."


female sex, parthenogenesis.


"Abortive cannibalism in single celled protoctists resulted in a truce called sex."


stressed conditions encourage protists to eat anything and everything.


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7. Ashore

Star Trek is a pauperized (plantless, bacterialless, machino/macho) sort of science fiction.

"Ecosystem services"

"An ecosystem is the smallest unit that recycles the biologically important elements."


Carbon and Nitrogen cycles given as examples of essential nutrients

"I prefer the idea that Earth is a network of ecosystems (as a set of communities) over any personification of Mother Gaia."


"The material and energy needs of organisms in any ecosystem are met by recycling all the many chemical compounds required for life maintenance.


"Land dwellers may owe their hold on dry ground to specific symbioses between plants and fungi."

"Plant roots and fungi grow together into bumps on roots called mycorrhizae."


fungal fusion to explain the coevolution of green plants, 450 million years ago


lichens symbiotic associations of algae, fungi, bacteria.


"animated water", after Vernadsky, the capacity of plants to pump water 90% of plants have mycorrhizae associated with their roots.


Daisy world, is a game Lovelock developed based on feedback between differentially colored surfaces; white reflectivity (cooler) and dark absorption (warmer) of infrared radiation or heat is a simplified situation of many surfaces on Earth that emit and absorb energy at different rates.

8. Gaia

Preprioception -- the sensory recognition of inner conditions.

"What has emerged is the mathematical outline of an overlap between natural selection and global temperature regulation."

"global temperature regulation is a paradigmatic example of Gaian regulation."
stabilization of temperature is a product of the daisy world models


James Lovelock's hypothesis was named Gaia (after the titan mother Earth in Greek legend) by Lovelock from a conversation he had with his neighbor and author William Golding, who wrote the novel, Lord of the Flies.

SET diagram of the phylogeny of Moneran descendents:

Prokaryotic organisms:

Monera–non-nucleated, single-celled bacteria.

Archaebacteria–methanogenic bacteria, anaerobic.

Eubacteria & cyanobacteria–facultative anaerobes & aerobic, Eubacteria (true bacteria) and Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).

Eukaryotic organisms:


all algae (red, green, brown)

slime mold
water molds


root, or mycorrhizae

Animalia animals

snails, mollusks
fish, birds, reptiles

 Plantae plants

flowering plants

p.31, 129.

"We people are just like our planet mates. We cannot put an end to nature; we can only pose a threat to ourselves."


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