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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Abstracts

2011 Symposium Home

Prehuman origin of agriculture

Lynn Margulis
Distinguished University Professor, Department of Geosciences
University of Massachusetts-Amherst 01003


Both agriculture and "body-farming" will be illustrated in the context of the effect of 3400 million years of life on this planet. Agriculture refers to the Darwinian "natural selection" of plants, fungi or even protoctists for food, fiber, shelter, behavior-alteration, defense or other. The growth, in agriculture, of heterospecific populations of organisms, often autotrophs is achieved by alteration of the immediate environment by the growers. The growers are heterotrophs in need. In "body-farming" the "immediate environment" that "naturally selects" the plant, fungal or other organism (also often an autotroph) cultivated by the grower is the body itself of the grower! For "body-farming" the "immediate environment" may be the surface, the intercellular body cavity, the intracellular milieu etc. There are many themes and topologies of environments that support and naturally select, by proximity, populations of heterotrophs with specific and different food and energy needs. Both agriculture and "body-farming" phenomena evolved long before Homo sapiens. Indeed, agriculture and body-farming were well established on Earth before any species of the genus Homo evolved. I plan to illustrate processes of food-growing outside the body (agriculture) with Heterotermes tenuis and ants as well as many more inside the body (body-farming) by use of images, moving and still. Some spectacular examples include: Hatena, Convoluta, Bos, Oophila amblystomatis and Pectintella magnifica. Agriculture involves prototaxis and co-evolution whereas "body-farming" is a symbiogenetic phenomenon. The failure of Platonic formalized agriculture and medicine to understand the nature of most autotrophic-heterotrophic and symbiotrophic relationships is a main cause of woe in our "civilized" Western society.

Last Modified: 5/10/2012