How connected is life?

This connectedness between most plants and many fungi, both of which originally evolved in the sea, is hypothesized to have been a critical factor in allowing plants to emigrate out of the sea and colonize the heretofore infertile continents some 470 million years ago. Indeed the first such functional connections may have occurred between marine algae and fungi and such a symbiosis may have been the ancestor of present-day lichens which continue to demonstrate their impressive ability to colonize barren rock.

Recently we've begun to learn more about the billions of bacteria that live on and within our bodies. Some of these bacterial species make vital contributions to the digestion of our food while others are important for disease resistance. Will we be motivated to become better stewards of our environment as we learn more about the different species that make our lives possible?

Questions and suggestions from readers are welcomed and will be responded to in future editions of this column. Contact me at cwdingman@frontiernet.net.

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