Bananas and humans have roughly 50% of our DNA in common, despite the fact that bananas are triploid (having three sets of genes) and humans are diploid (having two sets of genes). On the molecular level, on the level of DNA, we are intertwined.
The structure on the left is the banana flower, often called the “heart” of the banana.
In the Bicentennial celebration of 1976, I attended the Boston parade dressed as a bald eagle, a very patriotic toddler indeed. I was told at the time that the bald eagle I was impersonating had gone extinct. I didn’t bother to update this knowledge until several decades later, when I was gobsmacked to stumble across one that was very much alive. It was like seeing a dodo or a woolly mammoth perched in the branches. In my eyes the bald eagle is still the picture of resilience, a creature capable of defying extinction itself, a phoenix among beasts.
This is the toucan that services the papaya tree. Enticed by the allure of sugar and survival, the toucan perches on the branch and dips down to dig a hole in the fruit, visible in this photo. This is the papaya tree that has lured not only the toucan but dozens of other species (including we human animals) into carrying its seeds and spreading its genes throughout the region. The seeds of the tree must be scattered far and wide, or they will fester in the shade of the parent plant. Each seed must find its own patch of sunlight, just as each toucan must seek its own sweetness. There is a perfection to this arrangement, the self-interest of each individual organism resulting in the unwitting cooperation of the entire interconnected ecosystem. What lessons lurk in each leaf?