What if the fundamental unit of biology is not the self, but the network? What if plants, and really, all species, are made of interacting relationships and networked connections that are intertwined? A simple backyard experiment looking at the biological make-up of a maple leaf revealed to Professor David Haskell that a maple leaf is not an individual made of plant cells, but “a community of cells from many domains and kingdoms of life” — fungus, bacteria, protist, alga, nematode, and plant. As scientists know, “microbe-free plants likely do not exist in nature and, if they could be constructed, would quickly die for want of the vital connections that sustain life.” In this article, Haskell, professor of biology at the University of the South, Tennessee explores these ancient and dynamic biological networks, and the practical and metaphorical consequences of holding the perspective that all life is connected.
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