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“The fascinating thing about the [termite] mound is that…it’s not just this big pile of dirt; it has complex architecture, it’s differentiated in structure…and it has a function—it serves to capture wind energy in the environment, and that helps power the gas exchange needs of the termite colony located underground, so it’s literally a lung made from soil,” says J Scott Turner, explaining one of his well-known discoveries that contributed to the theory of collective intelligence. His discoveries not only led to a greater understanding of a South African species of termite and their enormous mounds which pepper the Cape Town landscape, but opened the door to many more questions which would influence the direction of his career moving forward.

As a physiologist, professor, and author, J Scott Turner has made it his life’s work to understand where and in what way physiology, adaptation, ecology, evolution and philosophy intersect. He joins the podcast to discuss what he’s learned over the years, including the different ways in which organisms construct and adapt to their environments in ways that resemble superorganism assemblage, animal architecture as expressions of physiological needs, the ways in which human gut flora interact with their environment, the cellular cooperation and mutual accommodation that’s present in the development of malignant cancers, and the fluid relationship between hereditary memory and function.

Tune in for all the details, and learn more about his work by visiting jscottturner.com or reaching out with questions via jsturner@syr.edu.

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