Thursday, January 20, 2011

Animal agriculture

The world’s smallest farmer is not human: it’s a “social amoeba”, Dictyostelium discoideum, that seeds new land with bacteria, which it then eats. It joins ants, termites and humans on the list of creatures that practice agriculture.

Read more.

In an earlier post I mentioned ( here) the work of Nick Lane of University College London and Bill Martin of the University of Dusseldorf who showed that “cells could not become complex until they could produce sufficient energy. This obstacle was overcome when a cell engulfed some bacteria and started using them as power generators – the first mitochondria.”

In other terms the simplest forms of life did invent specialization and production, as well as farming, or in still other terms, economic activity.

An interesting consequence: do we really need the “homo economicus” hypothesis to explain human economics? Darwin explained that humans are just one kind of animals. Now this new work explains that human economics is just one kind of animal economics, and of very primitive animals at that. Shouldn't economic textbooks start with an analysis of “natural economics” instead of the traditional human utility function?

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