There is no such thing as a free lunch – A lesson from nature?

Most of us must be familiar with the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. In a way,one could extend this unwritten rule virtually to all living things – plants,insects or animals. Recently I came across a very interesting example of operation of this principle in Nature.
Nature knows no logic. Logic was invented by human beings. Should we then say that nature follows this principle rather unwittingly? No,it is neither a fair nor a scientific conclusion. Let me elaborate. The example I am going to give here is taken from a book written by the well known author Richard Dawkins.(The title of the book is ‘The greatest show on earth’).
The author discusses,in one chapter,the interdependence of flowers and insects. In simple terms,bees / insects / moths help pollinate the flowers by carrying pollen from one flower to another of the same species(pollination helps to propagate its species). In return,certain species of flowers treat the insects with nectar or honey.
This can be interpreted as insects domesticating the flowers to produce honey for them or vice versa. One can not separate the cause from the effect. It’s a win-win situation for insects as well as flowers.
There is another species of Orchid flower in Madgascar known as Angraecumsequipedale which is even more intelligent(here we are talking about evolutionary intelligence). It has made its honey-bearing tubes amazingly deep(nearly 30centimeters long)so that the nectar is accessible only to certain selective bees that are sufficiently long tongued! This ensures that pollination is highly selective and relatively more efficient. To be effective,the flowers resort to one more strategy. They would manufacture just enough quantity of nectar to attract moths while at the same time the amount of honey available in any one flower is not sufficient to satisfy the hunger of the moths. This makes sure that the moths would land onto another flower and pollinate in the process. In other words,the flowers would produce just the optimum amount of honey to enlist the services of the bees for pollination.

Isn’t it amazing that nature follows the principle of ‘paying for the services rendered’? Flowers can not walk and bees can not manufacture honey. Therefore the two need each other’s services for survival and propagation of its species. And how does one explain this intelligent behaviour? It is a brilliant strategy developed over millions of years of ‘Evolutionary intelligence’. This intelligence is obviously superior to ‘acquired intelligence'(as in human beings). The latter depends upon logic,competition and ego whereas the former most often is a result of(or results in) mutual cooperation,survival and sustainability. The evolutionary intelligence has just one objective – that is to find various genetic modifications (by trial and error)and select the one most suited for survival and propagation of its species. It does not care who else is benefiting in the process.
Although I have taken an example of evolutionary process leading to cooperation and coexistence,this is not always the case. There are instances in nature where evolution teaches us the subtle art of so called ‘Arms Race’. More on that in a later post.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. amazing post. very interesting…

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