Mutualism

 

 
  

 


Mutualism

Mutualism is a type of symbiotic relationship where two species of organisms live together and benefit from the interaction. Many of these relationships exist in the rainforest; several will be discussed here. For example all orchids depend on fungi called mycorrhizae at some point during their life cycle. The fungi grow partly on the root and aid the plant in the uptake of nutrients. The fungi benefit as they ingest some of the food from plant photosynthesis. Another example of mutualism is between the fruit of some plants and fruit eating birds. The fruit provides nutrition for the bird and in return the bird disperses the seeds of the plant as the fruit, loaded with seeds passes through the birdís digestive system. There is even a relationship between a certain species of nectar eating mite that depends on the mutualistic relationship between plants and hummingbirds. The mites are transported to each flower in the nasal cavity of the hummingbird!

One of the most often cited examples of mutualism is the protozoa that live in the gut of termites. Without these protozoa, the termite would be unable to digest the cellulose and other large molecules in wood. The protozoa in return are provided with food, shelter and a means of transportation for dispersal.

Leaf cutter ants provide another example of this mutually beneficial relationship. As the leaf cutter ants bring the leafs back to their den, ants chew the leaves into a paste, they release a drop or two of fecal matter into the paste, a fungus grows on this mass, and the fungus is the sole food of the ants.

 


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