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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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Big Dreams for Small Creatures

Big Dreams for Small Creatures

Ilana and Eugene Rosenberg’s Path to the Hologenome Theory

Chapter:
(p.288) 18 Big Dreams for Small Creatures
Source:
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences
Author(s):

Ehud Lamm

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.003.0019

This chapter presents the origins of the hologenome theory developed by Eugene Rosenberg and Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg. This theory takes holobionts, which consist of a multi-cellular organism together with its microbial symbionts, to be single adaptive entities. The Rosenbergs have argued that holobionts are a fundamental evolutionary unit of selection and that their evolution involves the inheritance of acquired characters. The chapter compares these ideas with older notions of superorganisms, such as ant colonies, and with contemporary metaphors describing Internet based “social networks.” Like traditional views, the Rosenbergs emphasize the integrative nature of organisms, which they find in symbiosis with microorganisms; unlike classic superorganisms, the boundaries of the holobiont individual are fuzzy, its constituents always in flux. Taken to its logical conclusion, this prompts rethinking the relations between ecology and evolution.

Keywords:   holobiont, hologenome theory, symbiosis, individuality, organism, unit of selection, superorganism

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