Does the interaction between individual animal and microbes form something greater the sum of each, considered separately?
Vital functions like digestion and immunity were long assumed to be under the purview of individual organisms, as capabilities developed and were refined through evolution by natural selection — the differential survival and reproduction of individuals. But if our bodies are less an autocracy of identical cells and more a coalition of multitudes, how can we explain their evolution?
Some biologists are calling for a radical upgrade of evolutionary theory, arguing that prevailing ideas, developed from the study of bigger, more easily understood organisms, don’t fit nicely into this new world. Others contend that existing theory just needs to be applied more carefully. All agree that the micro and macro worlds are inescapably interdependent, and that biologists must explore the frontier of their interconnections.Jonathan Lambert, “Should Evolution Treat Our Microbes as Part of Us?” at Quanta
Of course, we should but, as one biologist tells Lambert, “It’s safe to say that the microbial revolution has been impactful in that it throws so many of the traditional ideas out, or at least casts them in a new light.” Many might prefer to just change the subject and go on doing things the old way.
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See also: Scientists urge focus on the microbiome
The ocean’s microbiome resembles the human gut’s microbia