Natures Fascinating Symbiosis
Natures Fascinating Symbiosis
A symbiotic relationship is a close and long term, usually permanent relationship between two different organisms. One cannot live without the other, therefore it is symbiotic. Symbiotic relationships, just like adaptations, are everywhere we look in nature, from the tiniest bacteria that inhabit our very own guts, to the giant sperm whale and the barnacles that make it's skin their home. These relationships are absolutely fascinating and wondorous.
Although most symbiotic relationships are beneficial to both organisms, called mutualism, some are not. Some symbiotic relationships involve one organism remaining neutral (commensalism) and some symbiotic relationships, such as parasitism, can actually be harmful to one of the two organisms.
This page gives one stunning example of each of the three types of symbiotic relationships and many links where you can read about more. Enjoy!.Photo from Webecoist Which also shows many other incredible symbiotic relationships along with excellent photos.
Scuttling silently across the ocean floor, the tiny candy cane stripped legs of the boxer crab extend sideways, reaching for its pebbled home. Unknown to the crab and lurking within, is a hungry predator, ready to make a quick snack of the tiny crab. The crab is not defenseless though, reaching out its two front claws it shakes its ferocious pompoms at its enemy.
Ferocious pompoms? Well, they're not real pompoms, they just look like them. Growing around the crabs front claws are tiny creatures called sea anemones. These sea anemones protect the crab as they contain stinging cells which deter any possible attacker.
Since the boxer crab gains protection from its sea anemone gloves and the sea anemones get a place to live and left over scraps of food from the crab, both of them benefit in their relationship. When two organisms both benefit in a relationship like this, it's called mutualism. Mutualism is one type of symbiosis.Photo from Webecoist Which also shows many other incredible symbiotic relationships along with excellent photos.
More Examples of Mutualism
There are literally hundreds of examples of mutualism out there - from the pollination for flowers by insects,birds and bats to the bacteria living in the guts of ungulates (like deer) that help them digest cellulose. Here are a couple of pages that have some interesting examples.
- 2 Common Examples -
The clown fish (think Nemo) and the sea anenome (an organism which belongs to the class Anthozoa which includes the hydras, corals, and jellyfish) share a relationship in which the clown fish is protected by the anenomes stinging cells and the anenom
- Quite a Few Examples Plus A discussion On The Types of Mutualism
The yucca and the yucca moth as well as some plant symbiosis examples such as mycorrhizae-plants and rhizobium-legume.
A crocodile opens its mouth, invites a bird in and.....Chop? No, the crocodile remains still while the plover picks meat and parasites from its mouth. This cleans the crocodile’s teeth and prevents infection while providing food for the hungry bird.
Share This With Children
Children are natually curious about nature and relationships between animals, plants and other organisms. Encourage this and discover some interesting symbiosis with your little one with these great books.
A large beetle spreads its wings to fly revealing a teeny tiny hitchhiker going for a free ride. The pseudoscorpion, spider like and often overlooked due to its small (1 cm) size, often disperses by hiding under the wing covers of large beetles. Not only does it get a lift to a new destination, but it gains protection from predators to boot. The pincers of the pseudoscorpion are too small to affect its beetle host, so the pseudoscorpion gains all the advantage in this relationship.
A symbiotic relationship such as this one, in which one organism benefits and one remains neutral is called commensalism. Commensalism is usually harder to find in nature because as you look closley you often find both species benefit in some way, its just not that obvious at first glance. In this example, perhaps the beetle gets something from the pseudoscorpion, we just don't know what that is quite yet.photo source gardenweb
More Examples Of Commensalism
The Demodex folliculorum mites living in human eyelash follicles have a commensalistic relationship with us. They munch on dead skin cells and oils while we remain unharmed. (You can see them in about 1/2 the adult population 2/3 of the elderly population. Pull out and eyelash or eyebrow and look under a microscope.)
Leaping from the edge of a rock face to almost certain death, a grasshopper plunges into a pool of water where it drowns. Suicide? Hardly. Inside the entire body cavity of the grasshopper except its legs and head, squirms a tiny hairworm. Upon arrival in its grasshopper host, the worm secretes a chemical cocktail that wreaks havoc on the grasshoppers central nervous system causing it to eventually take the final plunge. When the grasshopper hits the water, the hairworm, now three or four times longer than the grasshopper, can swim away and join its fellow hairworms in a giant writhing mass where it will breed.
The hairworm is a parasite and gains all of the benefits in this symbiotic relationship, called parasitism. Usually the parasite does not kill its host, making this example unique. There are hundreds of parasites out there, many feeding off of human hosts.photo source: Colorado State University
More Examples Of Parasitism
- Human Parasites
From Tape Worms, to liver flukes to nasty protozoans, check out amny of the common human parasites here.
- Brood Parasitism Example
Brood parasitism is when certain birds lay their eggs in the nests of other brids and then leave, provinding no parental care for their offspring. The 'host' does all the work.
- Parasitic Plants
From the smelly to the huge to the totally bizarre - read all about a few parasitic plants here.
A whopping 75% of the world's creatures are parasites. And the average human body alone is known to host over a million parasites.