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November 22: Evolutionary Cooperation

November 22, 2013

imglynn-margulis1Lynn Margulis, a biologist who showed that interdependence and cooperation among organisms drives evolution as much as competition, died in Amherst, Massachusetts of a stroke at 73 on this date in 2011. Margulis went to the University of Chicago at age 14, married her fellow scientist Carl Sagan at 19, and published her thesis in 1967, immediately after completing her graduate studies. Ten years later, biologists sustained her theory of “symbiogenesis,” the merging of the genomes of different species through the transfer of nuclear information between bacterial cells or viruses and eukaryotic cells. It is this process, fueled by symbiosis, she believed, that produced the evolutionary leaps that punctuate the historical record — leaps that classical Darwinist theory does not explain. “Margulis’s whole career was about seeing bigger and deeper pictures of symbiosis,” writes Rabbi David Seidenberg in the Forward, “the biggest being the earth itself. She was co-creator of the Gaia hypothesis — the idea that Earth is a self-regulating system shaped by life, not just a place where life resides.”
“Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.” —Lynn Margulis