->I wonder what the dry mass of independent organisms living within a human
being amounts to. I mean, relative to the human part of our body. Anybody
My understanding is that it's about 10% dry weight.
(But I'm staying wet thank you - "Life is an aqueous experience" Marston
Bates, The Nature of Natural History, Princeton Science Library
This sort of figure makes you realise how really simplistic our 'Listerine'
thinking about fighting bacteria really is - when you realise that our
survival depends on internal microorganism, much as does the rest of life,
and underscores the importance of whole systems in healthy organic growing,
for people or food. If people accept such a state within themselves, then
they will find it easier to see the complexity of a plant's association with
Lyn Margulis argues
some functions currently performed by intestinal bacteria, for example
production of vitamin B12, will eventually be taken over by hosts of the
Leaving aside the still independent microorganisms, we need to be very aware
that there is very modest scientific understanding of the roles of
organelles in cells or their origins.
Notable among organelles are the mitochondria of which we may, depending on
health, have ten to a thousand in each cell. Mitochondria have their own DNA
(the formerly Unknown [US] Vietnam Soldier was identified not by his own
cellular DNA but by his mitochondria's DNA). While they farm some of the
maintenance of their genetic needs out to nuclear DNA, the mitochondria
retain (in all cells with nuclei, in all life forms) the roles of
respiration and steroidogenesis, without which life generally would have
neither form nor performance.
I think that wider understanding the complexity of this web of life within
organisms - far more complex than the commonly discussed food chains and
patterns of parasitism, symbiosis and predation between whole organisms - is
very important to getting people to see the world as a bit more complex that
that of a 'dominant' species having rights or obligations. We may thing we
need to eat well for ourselves, but we give little conscious thought to the
physiological and emotional needs (if I may venture the latter to exist) to
the United Nations inside us.
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