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Our Special Relationships in Nature

Updated: Mar 4, 2022


The phrase “survival of the fittest” is often used to describe the way species evolve over

time. It highlights that only the most successful have offspring, passing on their genes to the next generation. However, by using language like this, it’s easy assumed that all species in an ecosystem are constantly working against each other, and that only the most aggressive or strongest species can survive. While it is true that predators must catch and kill their prey and parasites must take resources away from their hosts, these are only examples of a wide diversity of relationships involving multiple species collectively known as symbiosis.


Humans often separate themselves from discussions of the ‘natural world’, but it shapes us

as much as we shape it (if not more)! Inspired by ZooLab’s own Symbiosis’ workshop, let’s take a look at some of the ways humans have formed relationships with the various species in our environments throughout history!

 

Mutualism


‘Symbiosis’ is a term used to describe any type of long-term, repeated interaction between

two different species. Mutualisms are special kinds of evolved relationships in which both

partners benefit from the interaction, evolving specially to provide for their partner. Great

examples are everywhere; think about how bees pollinate flowers in return for sugary nectar,

or how clownfish eats an anemone’s parasites in return for a safe place to live. Often, these

cooperative relationships shape ecosystems just as much as negative relationships like

parasitism and predation. Let’s explore some of the most dazzling examples for human/ nature relationships below.