November 12, 2008

Symbiosis and our bacterial ancestors

When I was a school teacher I had the excellent opportunity to teach symbiosis to a group of captive nine year olds. Excellent in that the ecology lessons could connect with the concepts of cooperation and community we were working toward. That was in the day before Lynn Margulis had enlightened the science world with her Endosymbiotic theories. Before, symbiosis was often portrayed as nature's interesting, but freaky sideshow - often described as an opportunistic or parasitic relationship - Mr Fungi meets Mr Algae and Wee Lichen is born.
Symbiosis is something quite remarkable and perhaps the foundation of all living things. To start we have the realization that "the origin of bacterial cells is the origin of life itself". There is a lot of DNA from ancient bacteria in us humans, it's often referred to as our "junk" DNA. Bacteria and humans engage in symbiosis in many ways, some pretty, some not so. See the article: "Gaia a tough old bitch".

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