Flower

Posts Tagged ‘Symbiosis’

Hitching a Ride: Biological Relationships in the Natural World

While breezing through National Geographic‘s online magazine a few weeks ago I came across a remarkable photograph that had been taken off the coast of New South Wales, Australia: a seal riding on the back of a humpback whale. Scientists say this event is indeed rare, but not unheard of.  It’s not clear whether this was an example of a special biological relationship between the seal and whale or if the seal was just joy riding. This got me to thinking about other biological relationships that occur quite often in nature, such as the one between the oxpecker and the African buffalo, or the common relationships between insects and plants.

eLibrary can assist ecology and biology educators in teaching students the world of these complex relationships with specific resources in the fields of biology and ecology.

In ecology, the interaction and relationship between two different species is called symbiosis. Within symbiosis, there are three major types of relationships: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.

These relationships can occur not only between species in the animal world but also in the plant and microbial worlds. Anyone who has seen the bright orange or yellow plant-like covering on some rocks are probably looking at lichen, a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus. And relationships can also exist between biological kingdoms such as between plant and animal (for example, the flower and the bee). It might also surprise your students to learn that we humans, as well as other animals, have symbiotic relationships with microorganisms within our own bodies.

In the case of the relationship between the red-billed oxpecker and the African buffalo, this is considered a mutualistic relationship (sometimes called cleaning symbiosis) where each benefits from the other’s existence and behavior. The oxpecker will perch somewhere on the buffalo and feed on ticks (parasites) and other insects that have taken up residence and pester them. In this way, both mutually benefit from each other: the oxpeckers get a hardy meal and the ungulates are happily rid of the annoying parasites.

You can learn more about the other types of symbiosis (commensalism and parasitism), and other animal and biological relationships in eLibrary. We have a wealth of biological and ecological resources to assist you in helping your students explore the world of symbiosis and biological relationships. We have Research Topics on Symbiosis, Community Ecology, Biomes and Ecosystems, Population Ecology, as well as the broader subjects of Biology and Ecology that can enrich your instruction.