Sex and Emergence
Among the greatest cooperative examples of biotic evolution that released a virtually unbounded world of complexity, particularly conspicuous among eukaryotic organisms, was the evolution of sex. In sex, each individual of a mating pair contributes part of its genetic makeup (genome) to offspring—always cells are the seminal agents of the genetic contribution from each self—that participate in an emergent new generation. Thus a self, upon engaging in sex, abandons a substantial portion of its integrity and weaves together a molecular-to-cellular-to-organismal fractal interface with a partner. Throughout the sexual world, self seeks a profound intimacy with non-self. The chapter first describes gene sharing by bacteria through conjugation, a prokaryotic version of sex. An allegory of dancing snakes metaphorically represents cellular reproduction by mitosis and the reduction divisions of chromosomes in meiosis, the basis of gene sharing in sex among eukaryotes. Genetic recombination via meiosis enormously accelerates the diverse expressions of myriad life forms. Among angiosperm plants, sex is manifest in immensely variable flowers and, with some exceptions, their colors and forms evolved in response to a profound cooperative imperative with animal partners that spread their pollen. Darwin’s major insight on sexual selection among animals has explained male-female dimorphisms from subtle to spectacular.
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