“Here, let me show you an example,” our Maasai guide, Konee, said, as he pulled off the dusty, red road in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem. On our game drive, we were discussing a concept I had just finished reading about in book entitled, Regenerative Development and Design. This book suggests that mutual benefit plays a more important role in the evolutionary process than has often been recognized1Mang Pamela A. and Ben Haggard, Regenerative Development and Design: A Framework for Evolving Sustainability, (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2016), 11-13.
. Like most people, I had heard far more about the role of competition in evolution (i.e., the well-known “survival of the fittest”), so I was eager to hear Konee’s thoughts on mutually beneficial relationships because, as a Maasai, he had spent most of life in close proximity with nature.
Konee pointed toward a thorny acacia tree as he brought the Land Rover to a stop. We exited the vehicle and moved in to closely examine the tree. He told us that this particular variety was known as a “Whistling Thorn” acacia tree. The name was derived from the symbiotic relationship between the swollen, hollow thorns produced by the tree and the “cocktail” ants who puncture holes in the thorns in order to use them as a home. As the wind blows through the pierced, hollow thorns, a whistling sound is produced, and, hence, the name.2This summary was derived from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Vachellia drepanolobium,” (accessed February 18, 2019), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vachellia_drepanolobium.