2011-11-23

    Lynn Margulis, in memoriam

    Lynn Margulis falleció ayer, 22 de noviembre, a consecuencia de un ictus padecido el jueves de la semana anterior, desde el que aparentemente estuvo en coma hasta la pasada madrugada.

    Muchos la recordarán como la mujer de Carl Sagan, aunque sería muy injusto hacerlo. Como también sería terriblemente injusto recordarla por caer al final de su carrera víctima del síndrome de genio incomprendido por el dogma establecido y renegar de la selección natural e incluso aventurarse en otras heterodoxias como decir que el SIDA no está causado por el VIH sino por las espiroquetas (¡ay, su obsesión con las espiroquetas!) de la sífilis.

    Lynn Margulis, bióloga, merece ser recordada por sus descubrimientos científicos, extraordinarios y revolucionarios y fuera de toda sombra de duda. Merece ser recordada por su cuidadosa observación de unos microorganismos ignorados por el resto de la comunidad científica hasta el momento. Merece ser recordada por esa chispa de genio, por esa habilidad de ser capaz de mirar lo mismo que los demás y sin embargo ver lo que nadie ve. Y, por qué no, merece ser recordada por su tenacidad en defender lo que los hechos demostraban y la comunidad científica se empeñaba en rechazar.

    En palabras de Richard Dawkins, eso sí, 30 años después de que propusiese su teoría:
    I greatly admire Lynn Margulis's sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy. I'm referring to the theory that the eukaryotic cell is a symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells. This is one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, and I greatly admire her for it.
    Y es que Lynn Margulis, la gran científica, efectivamente descubrió que los cloroplastos, los orgánulos celulares de las algas (y por tanto, de las plantas terrestres) responsables de realizar la fotosíntesis son en realidad cianobacterias atrapadas en una relación simbiótica, como si de granjas intracelulares se tratase. También descubrió que las mitocondrias, ese otro orgánulo con forma de judía, siempre referido como la central energética de la célula eucariota, también tuvo su origen como una bacteria engullida por otro organismo unicelular. Y su teoría iba más allá, hasta el punto de sugerir que la propia célula eucariota (la que tiene núcleo, con sus cromosomas, a diferencia de las células procariotas, típicas de las bacterias) era resultado de la fusión de varias células procariotas más sencillas. Sugerencia que después se ha visto confirmada, aunque los detalles del cómo, quiénes y cuándo aún sean tema de discusión.

    Uno de los grandes logros de la biología evolutiva. Indeed.


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