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Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (Science Masters)

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  410 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Although Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution laid the foundations of modern biology, it did not tell the whole story. Most remarkably, The Origin of Species said very little about, of all things, the origins of species. Darwin and his modern successors have shown very convincingly how inherited variations are naturally selected, but they leave unanswered how variant organ ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 8th 1999 by Basic Books (first published October 8th 1998)
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Mar 13, 2014 Ted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution, have
If we care to, we can find symbiosis everywhere. Physical contact is a non-negotiable requisite for many differing kinds of life.

Symbiosis: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

What this book is not: A straightforward account of the science of evolutionary biology in the late 20th century; nor is it a textbook approach; nor is it even a journalistic, popular science approach.

What this book is: An account of one woma
Jun 01, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
The work presents a concise explanation of the author's Serial Endosymbiosis Theory (SET), which she regards as the key to speciation. She's probably correct for the most part. I appreciated her explanation of the historical (taxonomical) development of the kingdoms among which the various forms of life are distributed, although said explanation would have been appreciated even more had it appeared earlier in the book. Her clarification of the Gaia hypothesis was skillful, but I take issue with ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Will rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
Fascinating concept, irritatingly chatty and discursive execution. Much as I enjoy hearing what it was like to be married to Carl Sagan, the incessant name-dropping of colleagues and family members detracts from a clear narrative arc.
Lindsay Miller
I'm confused by a review that describes this book as concise, because I found it to be anything but. It seemed like the entire manuscript had been chopped up into paragraphs and rearranged, then never reworked for logical flow. It jumps from topic to topic in a not-at-all-charming way. It introduces terms 20 pages after the main discussion they were relevant to, if at all. It triggered far too many eye-rolls and sighs of exasperation in me, particularly at the awkwardly syrupy, sweeping, citatio ...more
Piotr Klimczak
Feb 06, 2012 Piotr Klimczak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Symbiotic Planet is a new look at evolution by Lynn Margulis. Some of the issues which Margulis is hoping to address, clarify and interpret in the language of biology - within a framework of a broadly understood concept and philosophy of Gaia - are far reaching and transcend our common human-orientated species specific arrogance: 'The planet takes care of us, not we of it. Our self-inflated moral imperative to guide a wayward Earth or heal our sick planet is evidence of our immense capacity ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Correen rated it it was amazing

Margulis presents her theory of evolution -- it happens through symbiosis between and within organisms. We do not just evolve from bacteria but we incorporate more bacteria and other simple life forms into our system. Protoplasmic genes do matter and are important components of our genetic inheritance. She labels her theory "Serial Endosymbiosis Theory." It is a worthy read.
Jun 26, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
I'm a sucker for popular science books. As a minor member of one of C P Snow's Two Cultures, I am respectful of but in no way conversant with the scientific mind (and even less so of technology), so popular science writings are my way of consuming regurgitated scientific principles without too much indigestion.

Lynn Margulis is a celebrated microbiologist who has, by all accounts, done sterling work on the relationships between bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Her main contribution to science
Nov 08, 2012 Yamhilette rated it it was amazing
Lynn Margulis explica la Teoría de la Endosimbiosis conectándolo con temas como Origen de la Vida, Evolución e Hipótesis de Gaia de una manera entusiasta, amena y hasta graciosa; pero siempre utilizando argumentos científicos.

Cada capítulo comienza con un poema de Emily Dickinson y se desarrolla entre anécdotas (personales o de investigadores clave), ejemplos, dibujos y referencias a artículos o libros. Aunque se publicó en 1998 (y existe información más actualizada) este libro es un buen punto
Galen Weitkamp
Jun 29, 2014 Galen Weitkamp rated it liked it
Lynn Margulis is a biologist (currently a professor at the University of Massachusetts). She is well known for her work on symbiogenesis (the evolution of new species through “inheritable” symbiosis). One time her son Zach asked, “Mom, what does the Gaia idea have to do with your symbiotic theory?” At the time she answered, “Nothing...” This book is a somewhat more in depth response to that question.

Most of us have been indoctrinated into the dogma known as the non-inheritability of acquired tr
Bill Leach
Oct 20, 2013 Bill Leach rated it really liked it
Lynn Margulis' Serial Endosymbiosis Theory (SET) proposes that advanced life started with the combination of bacteria that were living symbiotically. There were three steps:

1. Heat and acid tolerant archaebacteria merged with spirochetes, the later forming undulipodia and giving movement. The archaebacteria became the nuclei.

2. The swimming anaerobes merged with oxygen breathing bacteria, becoming the mitochondria that allow the product to cope with increasing levels of oxygen. These are the anc
My claim is that, like all other apes, humans are not the work of God but of thousands of millions of years of interaction among highly responsive microbes. This view is unsettling to some. (5)

I really, really wanted to like this book. There was so much possibility here for the late Dr. Margulis to talk in depth about symbiosis, evolution, and the (partially, at least) cooperative nature of Nature, and to explain the evidence for her core hypotheses in an intelligent non-specialist's language. S
Jul 08, 2016 Jun rated it it was ok
The author says that the evolution of life on earth follows the path of symbiosis. But she does not provide any scientific evidence. She repeats a few very simple hypothetical arguments. She sums up the results of some scientific research done by other scientists, but fails to present the results as a set of proofs to support her points.

Worst of all, she is a horrible writer. While talking of details, she often forgets what she was talking about, and sometimes does not even return to the main po
Aug 29, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Eating and reproducing among even the tiniest life forms is made into an incredibly fascinating journey by Lynn Margulis in this skinny publication. I found myself cheering for her explanatory theories of evolution all the way. There is something very compelling about including bacteria in the grand narrative about evolution not just in the case of humans, but in general, after all it was tiny bacteria and simple cell organisms that turned this planet into the blue gem it is today. The details o ...more
Heather Kate
Nov 20, 2016 Heather Kate rated it it was amazing
Came across this book on a tab hopping mission one eve, started looking at the earth as a self contained superorganism and Lynn Margulis's work alongside chemist, Lovelock. When I found that she was the ex-wife of one of my favourite physicists, Carl Sagan, I decided that I wanted to learn more about her and came across the Symbiotic Planet. This is an incredible look at the development of living beings and ignited an interest in microbiology that I've never previously cared for. Margulis has a ...more
Well I hated this book! I started it believing I am going to read something scientific about symbiosis, but it was nothing like that. This book is like an autobiography of Lynn Margulis. There are so many parts of her personal life combined in between how she evolved to her theory, that becomes tiring. The book is so poorly ordered, it was absolutely difficult to follow the theory. As mentioned before it is full of personal moments and criticism of other scientists that do not agree with her the ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Paula rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Margulis strives in this short book to connect the idea of Gaia with her symbiotic theory of evolution and does so quite convincingly to my mind. I appreciate her scientific explication of the Gaia Hypothesis, as opposed to the widespread, pop-spirituality one of a personified uber-organism. In Margulis's words, "Gaia itself is not an organism directly selected among many. It is an emergent property of interaction among organisms, the spherical planet on which they reside, and an energy source, ...more
Daniel Duarte

A great introductory piece to the science that supports the Gaia Hypotesis. An introduction that shields the Gaia hypotesis from 'new age', feminism and rushed conclusions of a global harmony. The book also offers an overall look at the role of symbiosis in evolution. Fascinating examples and thought-provoking rationale. Also some of the cogs behind science are brought to the forefront (a lot of this has a personal flavor as Margulis review her own life). Summing up: A classic Lynn Margulis book
Steve Voiles
A bit technical, but if that does not put you off, this is a fascinating read, detailing the collaborative nature of cellular evolution. Our own bodies are a world of microbes, we know, but Margulis details the worlds within the very cells of which we are composed, looking at parts of life that we don't normally even consider as living, the protein chains that have collaborated to form the pieces of our DNA and make possible the cellular behavior that make life work!
May 22, 2013 Janine rated it really liked it
As a conservation biologist with evolutionary and ecology sciences under my belt, Lynn's symbiotic theory made vast sense and added to my worldview. She writes well and supports her ideas with specificity and exuberance. I've symbiotically incorporated her theory and continue to find supportive evidence in daily life.
Stephen Palmer
Mar 21, 2013 Stephen Palmer rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Superb book by an acknowledged inspiration and authority in the field. I wasn't disappointed by this. It's short and succinct. It's readable, fascinating, and makes you think. Highly recommended, and not only for "future of life" types like me.
Staci C
Jan 09, 2012 Staci C rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book a lot. I'm still skeptical about Ms. Margulis's theory, but I appreciated her explanation and her ability to explain things to someone like me who isn't as well trained in biology as I would like to be.
ken rothman
Jun 07, 2015 ken rothman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Copernican Revolution in Evolutionary Biology

Perhaps if she were male Lyn Margules would have multiple Noble prizes and be one of human kind's most celebrated scientists. Brilliant, clear, insightful, view changing, and easy to read.
Jun 16, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it
Her discussions regarding past evolution and microbes were excellent. Her forays into the future, not so much.
May 25, 2012 Livia rated it really liked it
This is an extremely interesting book and I look forward to reading more about symbiogenesis and the Gaia hypothesis
Pam Porter
Aug 26, 2012 Pam Porter rated it really liked it
A significant book written about the relationships between different species, the endosymbiotic theory & the Gaia hypothesis. Short and easy to follow.
Sep 06, 2007 Miriam rated it it was ok
Shelves: naturalworld
Interesting in that it explained how cells were formed by symbiotic relationships between bacteria, but failing to explain how symbiotic relationships in general speed evolution forward.
Vladimir Belmont
Feb 20, 2014 Vladimir Belmont rated it it was amazing
Un libro interesante para empezar a comprender la teoría de la simbiosis seriada y como se relaciona con todas las especies del planeta. Escrito de una manera liguera y clara.
Roderick Hart
Roderick Hart rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2014
Kevin Denham
Kevin Denham rated it liked it
May 06, 2008
Laura Walls
Laura Walls rated it it was amazing
Sep 24, 2015
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Science and Natur...: July 2014: Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution 2 32 Aug 01, 2014 10:13PM  
  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History
  • Why Birds Sing: A Journey Into the Mystery of Bird Song
  • Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World
  • Life in the Undergrowth
  • Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science
  • Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
  • Speciation
  • The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter
  • Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life
  • Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth
  • The Ghosts Of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • For Love of Insects
  • Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life
  • Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions
  • The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems
  • In The Blink Of An Eye: How Vision Sparked The Big Bang Of Evolution
  • Chance and Necessity
Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) was a Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.
More about Lynn Margulis...

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