Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Contra Columnis Quintus XIV

Symbiosis:  The Good, the Okay, and the Horrific

A proper foundational discussion of the varied forms of life at their root domains is quite a challenge for even specialists in the field, it would seem.  This is due, the evidence suggests, to the very complex and multi-dimensional aspect of root life processes as they develop at basic single-celled levels and also as they develop in various ways as to their rudimentary processes of life.  Just taking the category of life known as "algae" reveals that there is a great deal of overlap and combinatory variation in how the organism may move, may ingest nutrients, may reproduce, although it seems that they are all photosynthesizers and can reproduce asexually and sexually.  But even such a root process, such as reproduction, can be varied in the same species of "protist" (a largely defunct, but in some ways still used, category of life), which are a form of eukaryote (cellular organisms with certain well-defined features of their structure, as to internal and external features).   Take the parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii, and just read about the weird that life in this world demonstrates RIGHT at the ROOT of its existence.

This thing basically lives inside any warm-blooded animal, and just reproduces by splitting itself into copies, much like a cloning process.  (I'd do a more thorough study before presenting this, but this town is FIFTH-THICK to the point that it is like swimming through a pool of algae...  lesser organisms would have suffocated by now, it is SO DAMNED RIFE HERE, HINT CLUE). As this "thing" reproduces that way in those types of animals generally, it has a special condition in which it will sexually reproduce instead.  That condition is the lining of a cat's small intestine, basically. How charming, yes?  Life, the "greatest gift of all", the greatest gift and most beautiful and wonderous thing ever, is basically an opportunistic freakazoid.  The result is that we can find that it does "its thing", and this is fine for it, but there are effects it has on the life forms upon which it "coat-tails".  It is hypothesized that there is a psychological affinity for the presence of cats that is engendered in the host, which makes it more likely that a host will tolerate or even seek out proximity to cats. Only the inner secretes of rodent and cat-lady psychology can reveal this for sure.

But imagine if it really did lead that mouse or rat to more incidents of interaction with a cat.  Good for the cat, good for the toxo, and good for the suicidal rodent.  What if the rodent host were not suicidal before the toxo infection?  Doesn't matter, it will have an enhanced likelihood of helping get toxo into sexual relations with one another.  What does it do with the cat? Perhaps it makes the cat find rodents more appetizing than they would have normally.  What if there were some sort of disease borne by rodents which would infect a cat if the cat would eat a rodent?  Then perhaps that would be to the disadvantage of that cat, but would perhaps also shore back the prevalence of toxo-bearing cats as well.  There might also be a harm to the toxo population in that vicinity, but overall the cats and rodents are suffering the most, and the toxo is rodeoing the macro of this visceral drama.

There may be other vicissitudes, but the overall situation is that the micro-level organisms can basically invade larger-scale organisms and get what they want from the deal, sometimes to the assistance, or sometimes to the detriment of the host organisms, and for purposes all their own regardless.  There may be more "weaponized" forms of parasitic activity.  Take for example Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a particularly heinous form of parasite from the fungi kingdom of life. What this thing can do, and what dynamics there are which ride with its actions on ant life, are fairly astounding when one thinks of the low level of complexity such life forms have in themselves when compared with far more complex life forms and their actions and interactions.  Yet some parallels emerge. 

The imporant thing to note right now, though, is that there is a stark asymmetry between the ant species and the fungal parasite which takes advantage of it.  The ant is adapting to its environment, with or without any such parasite.  The parasite is invading the ant and using the ant to create its own "meta-environment" which includes as one of its composing elements some aspect of the action of the host life form so that some or all of some aspect or aspets of that "host" (more like "victim") can be hijacked, in essence, so as to serve the parasites needs as a first priority.  Just look at the way this goes on in this particular form between ants as host and Ophiocordyceps and its various species. Go to all those provided links and see for yourself what sort of "asymmetry" it is that I'm talking about.  Try it out from the perspective of the host, then of the parasite, and see if they don't have a distinction that is about as fundamental, perhaps more insidiously malevolent, than a predator/prey distinction. (Predators just outright eat prey, so while it is more blatant what goes on, it is really not that different as to outcome, as the prey serves the predator rather than the other way around).

But these forms of life, such as cats and mice, are able to exist independently of one another.  The fact that when a cat sees a mouse it is likely to put it through hell before eating it, and then getting a joyous purr out of the resultant nutrition that the mouse provides, is meant mainly in this context to underscore the asymmetry between the two.  It isn't that sometimes the cat eats the mouse, but sometimes the mouse eats the cat.  A hungry cat will find and eat a mouse, and that about covers it.  When it comes to the way parasites take advantage of such an opportunity (toxo, for example), it may be more or less aggressive upon the lifestyles of those who are infected by the parasites.  Maybe they just like hitching rides, maybe they like having sex inside the small intestines that the host has which are just perfect for their mood, or maybe they like eating the organism from the inside out after controlling their behavior in a way that suits the parasite, but not necessarily the host.

Let's say that there are more benevolent, cooperative relationships that can obtain between animals.  Perhaps one will help the other, and in turn receive a benefit from that process, or from another process.  There are fish that clean the teeth of sharks, and the sharks don't eat those fish.  Both get a benefit.  There are possibly as many permutations where animals and plants, et al. can get along without devouring one another, but it will be found in most cases that they get along precisely because they are eating, usually some other species or its remains, or else being protected from being eaten or from bad hygiene.  Certain relationships in life forms are simply mutually beneficial, and help that group work together to go further than they would have in what is basically a very hostile environment to which their adaptations together work out better than if either are apart.  That's convenient when it happens, but it is the exception that got infected by and swallowed up by the rule, so to speak.

So in those cases, however, we can see a more reciprocal relationship in which at least to some degree there is symmetry, though it may be only an isomer of a truly balanced exchange.  One side may get more than the other out of the deal, though it is not in itself a zero-sum game.  Perhaps another life form could come along and serve as a sort of competition for that circumstance, and offer a better return than the life form it might replace in the relationship of mutual assistance.  There are a variety of aspects and dimensions to this idea, which is quite broad enough to include the relations of all life forms as such or rather, as found in some form of biospheric relation to one another.  This idea is called "symbiosis".

Because it is imperative for the analysis of fifth columnry, I will focus on the parasitic forms that are known to exist.  After this I will draw appropriate analogies between the different mechanisms of life and the way that these parasitic forms of symbiosis affect them.  Then I will show how actually existing rackets that human beings create and endure are, as it were, recapitulations of those biological analogies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Thank you