Thursday, September 01, 2005

Symbiogenesis

The full number of evolution theories available to us today would include some that are clearly incomprehensible, just plain crazy, and/or scientifically rigorous. One of those is this:
University of Massachusetts Amherst biologist Lynn Margulis said that "neo-Darwinism is dead," because "random changes in DNA alone do not lead to speciation. Symbiogenesis--the appearance of new behaviors, tissues, organs, organ systems, physiologies or species as a result of symbiont interaction--is the major source of evolutionary novelty in eukaryotes." (from Michael Shermer, Where the Known Meets the Unknown is Where Science Begins, SciAm, 09/05)
Some definitions would be helpful:
  • Symbiogenesis refers to the merging of two separate organisms to form a single new organism.
  • Eukaryotes are a "super-kingdom" of all organisms with complex cells comprising Plants, Animals, Fungi and Protists.
  • Symbiont is the smaller of two species living together in a symbiotic relationship.
It appears to me that this Dr. Margolis is suggesting that evolution is not just the separation of species over time, but the coming together of species too. This would mean that the traditional evolution family-tree-style charts would really be less like our standard American family-trees (more branches further down the chart) and more like the family-trees of the European Monarchies (inbreeding leads to convoluted branching and rebranching). Thus proving that Dr. Margolis is a Monarchist.

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