Sculpture bust of Greek historian Herodotus.


The Histories,

 c. 425 BC

The crocodile has eyes like a pig’s but great fanglike teeth in proportion to its body, and is the only animal to have no tongue and a stationary lower jaw, for when it eats it brings the upper jaw down upon the under. It has powerful claws and a scaly hide, which on its back is impenetrable. It cannot see underwater, though on land its sight is remarkably quick. One result of its spending so much time in the water is that the inside of its mouth gets covered in leeches. Other animals avoid the crocodile, as do all birds with one exception—the sandpiper, or Egyptian plover; this bird is of service to the crocodile and lives, in consequence, in the greatest amity with him, for when the crocodile comes ashore and lies with his mouth wide open (which he generally does facing toward the west), the bird hops in and swallows the leeches. The crocodile enjoys this and never, in consequence, hurts the bird.

Sculpture bust of Greek historian Herodotus.

Lynn Margulis

Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution,


Symbiosis, the system in which members of different species live in physical contact, strikes us as an arcane concept and a specialized biological term. This is because of our lack of awareness of its prevalence. Not only are our guts and eyelashes festooned with bacterial and animal symbionts, but if you look at your backyard or community park, symbionts are not obvious but they are omnipresent. Clover and vetch, common weeds, have little balls on their roots. These are the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are essential for healthy growth in nitrogen-poor soil. Then take the trees, the maple, oak, and hickory. As many as three hundred different fungal symbionts, the mycorrhizae we notice as mushrooms, are entwined in their roots. Or look at a dog, who usually fails to notice the symbiotic worms in his gut. We are symbionts on a symbiotic planet, and if we care to, we can find symbiosis everywhere. Physical contact is a nonnegotiable requisite for many differing kinds of life.

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