They spent a lot of time ridiculing what they should have been studying. They ridiculed the now commonly accepted idea that
The very notion of different organisms living so closely with—or within—each other was unheard of. That they should coexist to their mutual benefit was more ludicrous still. This was a mere decade after Charles Darwin had published his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, and many biologists were gripped by the idea of nature as a gladiatorial arena, shaped by conflict. Against this zeitgeist, the concept of cohabiting, cooperative organisms found little purchase. Lichenologists spent decades rejecting and ridiculing Schwendener’s “dual hypothesis.” And he himself wrongly argued that the fungus enslaved or imprisoned the alga, robbing it of nutrients. As others later showed, that’s not the case: Both partners provide nutrients to each other.Ed Yong, “The Overlooked Organisms That Keep Challenging Our Assumptions About Life” at The Atlantic
It’s a remarkably sane article, acknowledging that it’s quite possible that lichens may contain a number of different fungi cooperating with algae as one and that “the relationships between all the components of a lichen are probably highly contextual—beneficial in some settings, neutral or harmful in others.”
Indeed. Much devolution (the flip side of evolution, where life forms jettison complex structures over time) seems to involve life forms outsourcing some functions to their symbionts (but then the two, of course, become mutually dependent).
See also: Researchers: Coralline red algae existed 300 million years earlier than thought “Red algae play an extremely important role in the world’s oceans today.” And they didn’t have a long time to organize themselves to be the ecology anchor either, it seems.
Intelligent design as “rube-bait” and David Klinghoffer’s response Williamson typifies how the Darwinian impulse plays out in popular culture.
Devolution: Getting back to the simple life
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