Friday, December 10, 2010


I almost titled this post "Ant Landscapes" because I imagined how much fun it would be to be really small and to wander around among these lichens and mosses. Probably also quite dangerous. So, I reverted to the way a naturalist looks at scenes like these, seeing the process of rock and bark decomposition aided by lichens and knowing that this is the ultimate source of the soils in the great agricultural valleys. Rock-covered lichens also remind me of Beatrix Potter who, over 100 years ago, did pioneering work on lichens, being one of the first to recognize they were a symbiotic arrangement between fungi and algae. She was, of course, banished from the male-only scientific world and ended up writing great stories about rabbits. I think of her in the same way I think about Lynn Margulis, a contemporary female biologist who pioneered the concept known as the endosymbiont hypothesis to explain the possible origin of eukaryotic cells. Laughed off by many male biologists a couple of generations ago, she has seen her idea elevated to theory in most high school biology books. Three cheers for those who still study whole organisms and appreciate the "big picture" rather than becoming overly specialized.

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