Something to think about.

From my current book, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson:

More impressive than their sheer number, though, is the diversity of bacterial lifestyles. All organisms based on the complex eukaryotic cell (plants, animals, fungi) survive thanks to one of two basic metabolic strategies: photosynthesis and aerobic respiration. There may be astonishing diversity in the world of multicellular life- whales and black widows and giant redwoods- but beneath all that diversity lie two fundamental options for staying alive: breathing air and capturing sunlight. The bacteria, on the other hand, make a living for themselves in a dazzling variety of ways: they consume nitrogen right out of the air, extract energy from sulfur, thrive in the boiling water of deep-sea volcanoes, live by the millions in a single human colon (as E. coli do). Without the metabolic innovations pioneered by bacteria, we would literally have no air to breathe. With the exception of a few unusual compounds (among them snake venom), bacteria can process all the molecules of life, making bacteria both an essential energy provider for the planet and its primary recycler. As Stephen Jay Gould argued in his book Full House, it makes for good museum copy to talk about an Age of Dinosaurs or an Age of Man but in reality it’s been one long Age of Bacteria on this planet since the days of the primordial soup. The rest of us are mere afterthoughts.     p. 36 

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