Chapter 10 : The Struggle for Existence: Mutualism

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The Struggle for Existence: Mutualism, Page 1 of 2

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Charles Darwin wonderfully surmised that natural selection could account for Earth’s biodiversity, giving rise to what he described in his book as "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful." Commemorating the 150th anniversary of his book publication, in 2009 the Yale Center for British Art held the exhibit "Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts," describing the profound and lasting influence that Darwin’s scientific contributions have had on artistic views of the natural world. With Malthus as his muse, young Darwin was inspired to ponder how the natural world was composed of finite resources, which caused a struggle for existence among variants within a population. One apparent theme in the evolution of life is that natural selection often pushes organisms to take on parasitic lifestyles as their creative solution. Organisms may be pushed to lay down their arms and declare detente, by evolving to become mutualists that cooperatively support each other in the struggle for existence. Other amazing mutualisms involving microbes and multi-cellular organisms are awaiting discovery, which will similarly rewrite our understanding of the mutualisms documented by Darwin and other naturalists of his time. Microbiologists tend to focus overwhelmingly on the "bad" bacteria that do us harm and on the ability of microbes to produce antimicrobials that inhibit each other’s growth (again, here microbiologists are strongly interested because they can co-opt these natural products to thwart disease pathogens).

Citation: Turner P. 2012. The Struggle for Existence: Mutualism, p 71-76. In Kolter R, Maloy S (ed), Microbes and Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818470.ch10
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