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All Lives Interlive

Lives live with, on and within each other

Interliving is a Basic Organizing Pattern of Life

clownfish in host anemone
cleaner shrimp on coral reef

yucca moth placing pollen
on yucca stigma

tiny hooks will make sure that animals disperse this seed


The most inventive and novel of all schemes in nature, and perhaps the most significant in determining the great landmark events in evolution, is symbiosis, which is simply cooperative behavior carried to its extreme. But something vaguely like symbiosis, less committed and more ephemeral, a sort of wish to join up, pervades the Biosphere.

—Lewis Thomas, in The Fragile Species

The word symbiosis means different things to different scientists. For present purposes we will use the term Interliving.

In the most generous view, symbiosis is a stable association between two different living beings that is mutually beneficial.

Interliving includes the widest possible spectrum of relationships among living organisms that are beneficial to the Biosphere. Cooperation for mutual benefit is at the very root of how the Biosphere evolved and functions.

Five Interlivings at Enormous Scale
Look through these clarifying lenses to see the
Why & How

click to enlarge
Photosynthetic life creates oxygen; animal life creates carbon dioxide. We breathe each others' by-products.
Some soil bacteria (land), some cyanobacteria (oceans and land), cryptobiotic crusts (deserts) and some lichens have the ability to "fix" or pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and preserve it in chemical forms that can be used by organisms. Without nitrogen, no life.
In all terrestrial biomes, fungi partner with plant roots. These "fungus roots" vastly increase the plant's ability to absorb nutrients. The plant supplies its partner with carbon compounds. 95% of plants thrive through mycorrhizal interliving. Mycorrhizal plants are better able to tolerate environmental stresses than are plants without mycorrhiza.
Vertebrate Gut Bacteria
The vertebrate digestive system depends on bacteria. Some digest cellulose; some synthesize amino acids; some synthesize vitamins; some synthesize enzymes. In humans, bacteria supply vitamin K. Over 500 kinds of bacteria are found in the human gut. Vertebrates can't receive sufficient nourishment without their intestinal fauna. Lab-raised "germ-free" rodents are unhealthy and do not thrive. Developing immune systems probably require the presence of gut bacteria.
The eucayote (nucleated) cell structure that led to multicellular plants and animals originated through a series of symbioses in which some bacteria invaded a host and learned to live peaceably inside the host for mutual benefit. Each of the billions of cells inside your body originated in Interliving.

"Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking."

--Lynn Margulis

Cooperation among living organisms is at least as prevalent as competition. Mutual cooperation between life-forms and within natural communities is one of the driving forces of evolution.

Biologist Lynn Margulis, famous for her work on endosymbiosis and Gaia theory, demonstrates that symbiosis is a major driving force behind evolution. Darwin's idea of evolution driven by competition, she says, is overemphasized, and argues that evolution is strongly based on co-operation, interaction, and mutual dependence among organisms.

Look through these clarifying lenses to see the
& How of Interlivings.

For Cleaning
For Protection & Shelter

Ants:Masters of Interliving

Giraffes and Acacias
For Reproduction
Wheels Within Wheels
To Pioneer & Fix Nitrogen


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