If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours is the simple principle in play when it comes to mutualism within the ecosystem. Mutualism is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as ‘An interaction between members of two species that benefits both’ and in essence directly relates to symbiosis ‘(biology) the relationship between two different living creatures that live close together and depend on each other in particular ways, each getting particular benefits from the other’.
Here are a few of our favourite examples of mutualism within nature:
Remoras and sharks
Sharks are seen as one of the most feared after predators that patrol the depths of the ocean. With the ability to swim up to 30mph and possess up to 300 teeth, these creatures are designed to catch their prey with ease. Yet it isn’t uncommon for these hunters to often be accompanied by smaller fish, whom aren’t on the menu. The remora, also known as a suckerfish, is a common companion of large predators such as sharks and whales, with their dorsal fin designed to help provide suction to the larger counterparts. What these fish do is feed off of any detritus the host produces or comes into contact with, with this mutualistic relationship benefiting both parties.
Clownfish and sea anemones
If you have watched finding nemo, you will know that Nemo and his dad inhabit a sea anemone, and while this is portrayed a cool living arrangement, this is in fact an example of a symbiotic relationship. While the clownfish is given a habitat and protection, the anemone is given food from the clownfish’s waste products.
Aphids and ants
Aphids, the tiny insects that cause your vegetable patch to fail or your flowers to be full of bite marks, work in unison with ants. Since the by-product from the aphid (honeydew) feeds the ants, they in turn provide protection from any predators such as ladybirds. Ants have also been shown the help the population of aphids by removing the bodies of deceased aphids to control the spread of any disease outbreaks.
Bacteria and humans
If you didn’t know it already, your gut contains live bacteria. However, before you start to panic, this kind of bacteria is good! This bacteria doesn’t aim to harm us as the host but rather, help us digest our food and helps our immune system. There have also been numerous studies that the bacteria in our gut has a greater impact on our mental health than we may realise.
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Which one of these relationships surprised you most?
Images courtesy of Unsplash