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Thursday, 22 August 2013
Science 101: Symbiosis
Topic: Education and Values

Symbiosis—remember this from your Science classes? -It's the concept of two organisms co-existing, for the benefit of each. A “win-win” situation in life!

I recall learning about fungi and plants and similar biologic relationships as examples of symbiosis. But it's really much more interesting than fungi on a tree.

"Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit. In general, only lifelong interactions involving close physical and biochemical contact can properly be considered symbiotic. Mutualistic relationships may be either obligate for both species, obligate for one but facultative for the other, or facultative for both. Many biologists restrict the definition of symbiosis to close mutualist relationships "(source: Wikipedia)

This is probably an easier subset of symbiosis to understand because, if we simply observe the natural world around us, we see many examples.

However, we need to be aware of our role in the natural world, and our need to fulfill our role in nature. I took these pictures this afternoon,simply by looking in the yard and fields around the farm house. Your examples may be seen on a walk to the park or nature center, or in your own garden. LOOK closely at the natural world around you. Walden Pond was actually very small by our standards today and yet, what did Thoreau relate to us that is still relevant today?

 “It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.” 

― Henry David Thoreau

For some examples, look below and answer the question: Who are the participants in these four examples of symbiotic mutualism?







1.  The picture of the horses and guinea fowl may be confusing—but they're a great example of the mutualism symbiotic relationship. Guineas eat ticks and insects that would otherwise infect the horses. They also like the weed seeds in the horse pastures. So how lucky are those horses who have guinea fowl free-ranging with them!

2.  Next is the picture of trees with cattle sleeping under the canopy of shade trees. That one's easy, too. The trees provide shade from the hot sun for these black Angus who clearly need to be out of direct sunlight in the Summer. The exchange win for the trees? Cow paddies, of course—the best fertilizer. And cows don't disturb trees or harm their bark.

Next—YOU are a party in these relationships.

3. Butterflies need butterfly bushes and similar plants that are planted by HUMANS to exist. It takes literally generations of butterflies, each moving along their part of the route, to complete a full migration. And only your deliberate planting of butterfly habitat can help their multi-generational migration because pesticides and habitat elimination threaten their existence. In many geographic areas, humans are the only key to their continued existence.

Your benefit from butterflies? You can answer that, can't you?

4. Hummingbirds—ditto as butterflies. You must provide, if you can tune into your intrinsic response to nature's call. And, I believe you can understand this if you simply take the time to observe the details of your surroundings outside the confines of your house. So, take a walk and OBSERVE. Be a scientist.

It's fun!

It's important.  

Posted by Karen at 21:44 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 22 August 2013 21:47 CDT
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