We explain what mutualism is and its relationship with symbiosis. Also, what is commensalism, predation and parasitism.

Mutualism is important for increasing biodiversity.

What is mutualism?

Mutualism is a type of relationship between species or interspecific relationship, in which the two individuals involved obtain a mutual benefit, that is, they both benefit from their association. This type of link does not harm anyone.

Mutual relations are very important in the ecological dynamics of the environment, especially in the increase in biodiversity and in the maximum use of the natural resources available, as well as the paths taken by the evolution.

This type of association between species can be understood as a kind of barter or biological exchange, in which each species gives and gains something. Depending on what is transferred and what is won, they can be classified as follows:

  • Resource-resource relationships. In them, the two species exchange some type of substance or biological resource that is essential for both, so that their relationship provides a gain material to each.
  • Service-natural resource relations. In them there is the exchange of some produced resource, as in the previous case, in exchange for some action or conduct that is beneficial.
  • Service-service relationships. It is the least frequent type of relationship, in which what is exchanged by the species is some type of behavior or action, in such a way that both benefit.

Mutualism and symbiosis

Lichens are intimate associations between fungi and algae.

Symbiosis is a type of mutualism, in which there is a very close degree of association between the two species. So much so that they lead a life together and are often indiscernible from each other. Obviously, this cooperation presents significant benefits for both species, hereinafter known as symbionts.

The traditional example of symbiosis is the lichens, intimate associations of a fungus and a seaweed, in which living space is shared and exchanged humidity Y structure (of the fungus) by carbohydrates of the photosynthesis (of the alga).


Anemones protect clownfish from predators.

The relationships of commensalism (from the Latin cum Mensa, that is, "to share the table") are beneficial for some of the individuals involved in it (and who is now called a commensal), without this benefit deriving any type of harm or benefit for the other individual.

An example of this is the use of stinging anemones or fire corals by clown fish, thus obtaining protection from their predators without causing discomfort to anyone.


An example of predation can be a lion hunting a gazelle for food.

In the case of predation, one species causes damage (that is, death) to another, in order to feed on it, consuming the organic material that makes up your body. Thus, at consumer it is called predator and to the consumed prey.

An example of this occurs among African lions and the gazelles they usually feed on, which must flee to preserve their lives and not be eaten by this ferocious predator.


Female mosquitoes must bite other animals for food.

In this type of relationship, an individual feeds on the body of the other or uses it to perpetuate his biological cycle, causing damage in the process. This damage can be lethal, but it is not usually massive and direct, but slow and progressive, so the parasite can coexist in the body of the parasite for some time.

This is the case of mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects, whose females must "bite" other animals (generally warm-blooded) to feed and fertilize the eggs that will continue the species.

Examples of mutualism

Some examples of mutualism are:

  • The bees and the flowers. This symbiotic relationship dates back millennia and is very important to preserve the plant life in the world. The bees, attracted by the sweetness of the flowers, they suck the nectar that is inside them and unknowingly get impregnated with the pollen of the plant, taking it to another plant and thus promoting the genetic exchange between plants.
  • Bacterial flora and humans. In our intestines there is a bacterial flora, that is, a set of bacterial species that instead of infecting and injuring us, they help us to break down food and carry out digestion, also benefiting in the process.
  • The birds and the cattle. Cows, oxen, even wild species like rhinos are often seen with birds standing on their backs, pecking them without hurting them. This is because the birds feed on the ticks and lice that these animals possess, eliminating that annoyance in return.
  • Ants and aphids. The ants, so territorial, do not usually hurt certain types of aphids, but protect them. This is because, in return, the aphids share with them a sweetish nectar that they extract from the wise sucking of the plants.
  • Mycorrhizae. It is known by that name to the union of the roots of the trees and a certain type of fungus, consisting of an exchange of moisture (from the fungus) for nutrients (from the plant), which is mutually beneficial.
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