a heady discussion on the five different types of symbiotic relationships
There are five different types of symbiotic relationships (symbiosis refers to a close relationship in which one or both organisms obtain a benefit) between animals:
- Predation: when one organism eats another organism to obtain nutrients. Example: lions eating gazelles.
- Competition: two or more species use the same limited resources. Example: cheetahs and lions feed on similar prey.
- Mutualism: both partners benefit. Example: Oxpecker birds gain a safe habitat on rhinoceros’s backs and in exchange eat parasites and insects that would harm rhinos.
- Commensalism: only one species benefits while the other is neither helped nor harmed. Example: fish hide in coral reefs and gain protection from predators without affecting the reefs.
- Parasitism: One organism (the parasite) gains, while the other (the host) suffers. Example: tapeworms, bacteria, pathogens (parasites that cause disease).
Because humans have such trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that we are animals, we rarely consider these relationships when it comes to how we interact with other animals.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into some tree-hugger rant about how humans suck and we’re destroying the planet.
You can also take a deep breath and relax about having to do any heavy thinking for yourself. None will be required. It’s child’s play to come up with numerous examples of each of the five relationships when it comes to people and the many animals we love, hate, protect, eat and are indifferent about. Of course, sometimes things aren’t as cut and dried as they appear.
Take my recent efforts to climb aboard a rhinoceros. Despite making it very clear that I intended only to remove the flies and ticks that were causing it such annoyance, it did not see it as a commensalistic act. In fact, any casual observer would have been convinced I was about to be on the losing end of a predation incident as I scrambled to get out of the enclosure before being trampled to death by the ungrateful beast.
On the other side of the commensalism coin is the time where I was forced to hide under a dock while on a tropical vacation with a hot-tempered girlfriend. At one point I was forced, like the adorable Clownfish, to hide on top of a coral reef as the aforementioned HTG thundered up and down the wood planks above my head. When she finally roared off elsewhere I was forced to admit that I had pretty much squashed the shit out of the coral reef. It sat under me shattered into pieces.
Maybe not the best example of a commensalistic incident in retrospect.
The reason I mention any of this is because when I hear the term ‘support animal’ it makes me wonder why we alone among the animal kingdom need a ‘support animal’. I know there are plenty of cute videos where a horse and a goat are best buddies, but I highly doubt that the horse would lose any sleep if the goat was hit by a bus. There is, now I think about it, the video where a gorilla is told (via sign language) that his kitten friend was dead and he went off into his house and spent the rest of the night sobbing, but because it does not support my contention I am going to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
What I’m talking about is these vapid imbeciles who carry small dogs around in their purse and fall to pieces if Mittens or Muffin decides to wander off for awhile.
You’d last less than five minutes in the wild you dumb bitch.
I’ve also seen videos where a lion captures a baby gazelle or lamb and ends up taking care of it for awhile before eating it. Talk about confusing for the viewer. We anthropomorphize both creatures and ooo and ahhh as the lion licks it and stands guard over it, obviously confused as hell as to what it is feeling. The entire food chain is hanging in the balance, until eventually the lion thinks to itself “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”, breaks its neck and chows down.
If somehow the baby gazelle could give the lion a tapeworm their interaction could be the rare 5-for-5 symbiotic relationship.
That would definitely be a Top Play on the animal version of ESPN.
As far as interactions go, you might be asking if, coincidentally, the ex-HTG mentioned earlier had a dog she kept in her purse. Would that explain the “vapid imbecile” and “dumb bitch” comments peppered into an otherwise reasonable discussion about symbiotic relationships?
Didn’t I say that no heavy thinking would be required? I believe I did.
I’m starting to feel like this writer (web host)(Clownfish)/reader relationship is more parasitic than mutualistic. It’s the rhino thing all over again… you ungrateful beast.