Design of Symbiosis

Design of Symbiosis

One of the most interesting examples of design is the massive number of symbiotic relationships that exist in the natural world. These are arrangements two or more plants or animals benefit each other. Sometimes the design of symbiosis is essential for their survival.

Living by a river in Michigan, we see many animals that couldn’t exist without symbiotic relationships. Such common animals as squirrels need a designed symbiotic relationship that allows them gives them a growing abundance of food. We have a wealth of oak trees. In the fall, there are so many acorns on the ground that you can’t go barefoot. I counted 14 squirrels in my yard this morning, gathering acorns. They not only eat the acorns, but they bury them so that they will have a reserve of food for the rest of the year. They hide so many in so many different places that they eat only a small fraction of the acorns. The rest sprout and produce more oak trees. The oak forest spreads, and that means that the squirrel population can increase. The trees feed the squirrels, and the squirrels plant the trees in the design of symbiosis.

I grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The bedrock there is mostly granite. Granite is hard, and water cannot penetrate it. That means that growing crops is difficult in the “U.P.” Animals would have it tough except that God has provided an animal with a symbiotic relationship to the soil and rocks of the area. To retain enough water to take the entire ecosystem through periods of drought, beavers construct dams in the streams. The multiple dams create small ponds that supply the water needs of plants and animals. What would otherwise be a sterile wasteland is a temperate paradise of woods with a wealth of birds and animals all dependent on the beavers. As beavers reproduce, their kits build their own system of dams and ponds, expanding the availability of water for all northern life.

What is the most expensive meal you can order when you go out to eat? Ask for the “diamonds of the kitchen” and you will be served a fungus called a truffle. A three-pound truffle recently sold for $300,000, and yet it is just a fungus. Truffles grow underground on the roots of trees. The truffle keeps bacteria and corrosive elements away from the tree roots, and the roots provide a protected place for the truffle to grow. This is another design of symbiosis. The way most people search for truffles is to have pigs root around trees until they uncover a truffle. Truffles are said to be the most expensive food in the world, but to locate them requires the use of animals that most of us don’t care to be around.

There are countless symbiotic relationships. The question of interest is, how does such a relationship develop? Is it merely by accident? We suggest God has looked at the nutritional needs of all of His creatures. In His wisdom, He has created living things in a way that links their food supply to other living things in their environment. The design of symbiosis is a marvelous creation of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Learn from the Animals

Learn from the Animals
We are frequently astounded by what animals can do. As science seeks solutions to problems such as having enough food, knowing how to avoid disasters, and solving medical problems, we frequently see the answers in the designed features of living things. There are many things we can learn from the animals.

How can we have enough food to feed everyone on this planet? One way is to take advantage of animals with high reproductive capacity. A female mackerel, for example, lays about 500,000 eggs at one time. We have relied on animals like cattle which have one offspring at a time, are environmentally unfriendly, and require massive energy to sustain. Many fish, arthropods and mollusks can reproduce massive numbers of offspring, need very little energy input, and give off little or no environmental hazards. Some of them even remove environmentally unfriendly materials.

Can we improve our vision and perhaps restore sight to people who are blind? Studies of the common dragonfly have shown that each eye has 30,000 lenses. Our one lens is limited as to what we can see. The way images are transmitted to the brain in animals allows multiple transmissions. We are learning from insects and chameleons how the brain can reconstruct a useful image from many separate images. A chameleon can move its eyes in different directions, and its brain can interpret the direction and identification of what each eye is seeing independently.

How can we make stronger materials? Beaver’s teeth are so sharp that Native Americans used them as knife blades. The structure of the tooth enamel in the beaver and how the teeth maintain their sharpness is an area where materials science researchers can learn from the animals.

Can we make better drones? Researchers are interested in how high-frequency wing beats can allow better control of flight. Tiny flies known as midges beat their wings over 1000 times a second – twice as fast as mosquitoes. We can even learn from the animals that are almost too small to see.

Examples like these challenge those who would attribute animal design to chance processes and survival of the fittest. The design engineering in the animal world suggests wisdom beyond that of humans. In Proverbs 8:5,22,35 wisdom speaks, “O you simple ones understand wisdom and you foolish ones, have an understanding heart. The Lord possessed me (wisdom) in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. For whoever finds me finds life and shall obtain the favor of the Lord.” Let us be wise as we copy the wise designs of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
We invite you to follow our Facebook page which gives daily examples of design in animals and plants. Click HERE to see today’s post.