Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

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Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby weakmagneto on June 24th, 2012, 12:05 am 

I watched a documentary today on the maned wolf and its symbiotic relationship with the loberia plant. You must be asking yourself what is the relationship between a carnivore and a plant? Well, it seems that this wolf eats the fruit of the loberia plant. The fruit helps the wolf allegedly to rid itself of parasites and bladder stones. The wolf then defecates the seeds of the fruit on mounds to mark its territory. These mounds are often the only places that the seeds thrive and germinate to grow into healthy plants. Here is a link to more information about their symbiotic relationship:

http://btweenblinks.wordpress.com/2011/ ... aned-wolf/

This relationship just made me appreciate the complexities of nature and evolution. Are there any symbiotic relationships that you are aware of that amaze you?
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby moranity on June 24th, 2012, 3:40 am 

all fruits are made for animals to eat, so that seeds spread and have a good start, so this kind of mutualism is all over the place.
Also, mychorhyzal fungi that associate with trees, when in a forest, they seem to form a continous network that shares nurtients etc between all the trees in the forest, so the forest may be a mutually beneficial group, where all the individuals work together for the benefit of all(there is alot of evidence to support this, studies showing that nutrients introduced into an individual tree spreads throughout the group).
so much for nature red in tooth and claw...
there is also the idea that all bacteria and viruses move towards symbiosis, if you think of all the flora within our guts etc.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Gregorygregg1 on June 24th, 2012, 4:06 am 

Many great evolutionary leaps are the result of symbiotic relationships. Evidence seems strong that mitochondria, the power plants of the eukaryotic cell, and the chloroplasts of plants were originally independent unicellular bacteria that formed a mutualistic relationship with a larger cell. They still contain their own compliment of DNA and reproduce independently of the cell that contains them. Interestingly, they are only passed down through the female gamete.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby rjaspers on May 10th, 2015, 11:31 am 

Weakmagneto, thanks for showcasing my article about the maned wolf. At the end of your post you posed the question, "Are there any symbiotic relationships that you are aware of that amaze you?" I recently created a site with the sole intent of seeking out interesting mutualistic relationships and documenting them. I am not a trained professional – only a person with an intense curiosity of the delicate and complex balances which exist in the natural world. This path of discovery has lead me to some very fascinating examples of interdependence. I hope you will agree. If you would like to see for yourself, go to http://mutualistic.net.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on May 10th, 2015, 6:45 pm 

I love this kind of stuff. I first learned about the maned wolf's symbiotic relationship through this series.
"Mutant Planet"

I highly recommend finding a place to watch the series. It puts together many pieces of science. Continental drift, evolution, and symbiotic relationships. Looks like there is a second season I saw when looking it up just now that I need to find a place to watch too. I guess you can buy it on amazon stream.

http://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/mutant-planet/

skip to 22 minutes for Maned wolf.


I too keep an ongoing list in my journal of symbiotic relationship I learn about.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on May 10th, 2015, 6:51 pm 

Here are a couple interesting ones to think about

Humans and honey guide birds
Humans and modern corn
Mouse Lemur and Boabab Tree Flower
Nepenthes Bicalcarata and the Borneo Pitcher Plant
poop eating sloth moths
and something as simple as the common squirrel and trees
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Paralith on May 10th, 2015, 10:53 pm 

In college I found a lot of the insect-plant symbiotic relationships the most interesting. Acacia trees that produce sugary sap for ants to eat, and in exchange the ants protect the tree from other herbivores and even other parasitic plants; plants that release chemicals into the air when herbivorous insects are eating them, calling to predatory insects that come and eat the herbivores; and of course leaf cutter ants, who cut leaves and bring them home as fertilizer for their fungus gardens.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Marshall on May 11th, 2015, 12:02 am 

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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby tantric on June 16th, 2015, 1:03 am 

uh, forest for the trees? H. sapiens and our enormous web of domesticates. this depends on your acceptance of dual inheritance theory, wherein humans, cetaceans and a few other animals evolve via culture as well as genetics. once you wrap your head around that, history looks a bit different. the neolithic is the period in which humans added the first domestic plants to our collective. true, humans could survive without our partners, but the population would have to drop catastrophically. i like to think that this web of mutualism arose from our altruism - transpecies altruism is an evolutionary advantage that allows humans to create new mutualistic relationships. but it's more than that - our cultural inheritance allows us to manipulate the genetic inheritance of those species, first by breeding, now by genetic engineering. every year the list of species in our collective grows - think how many thousands of species of houseplants there are, or the factories growing corals in maine.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby neuro on June 16th, 2015, 4:50 am 

welcome tantric.

I'm not sure that cultivating a plant would qualify as symbiosis.
Any expert can draw a conceptual line here?
Bio? Paralith? ForrestDump?
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby tantric on June 16th, 2015, 7:39 am 

how is a flower using a bee for a pollinator, giving a little nectar in return, different from a human growing roses to attract a mate, giving a little miracle grow in return?
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby neuro on June 16th, 2015, 8:16 am 

Well, since it is my opinion that changing the meaning of words is not the aim of these forums, I'd be interested in knowing whether deriving some advantage from interspecies relations qualifies as "symbiosis".

In other words, is there a question of "need for survival", or complementation of missing functions, implicit in symbiosis, is it a quantitative aspect (how important the relation is), or is it simply a matter of mutual advantage?
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby neuro on June 16th, 2015, 8:20 am 

Wiki seems to suggest that your interpretation of the term "symbiosis" - tantric - is the currently preferred one:
The definition of symbiosis is controversial among scientists. Some believe symbiosis should only refer to persistent mutualisms, while others believe it should apply to any type of persistent biological interaction (i.e. mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic).[6] After 130+ years of debate,[7] current biology and ecology textbooks now use the latter "de Bary" definition or an even broader definition (i.e. symbiosis = all species interactions), with the restrictive definition no longer used (i.e. symbiosis = mutualism).


I obviously had remained anchored to an obsolete definition...
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Marshall on June 16th, 2015, 12:21 pm 

Hi Neuro, sometimes Wikipedia can be wrong, or biased if there is some active controversy and members of one side get control of the article. They may exaggerate the extent to which there is a consensus in their favor. We all know this, I'm just repeating the obvious.

Also fashions in academic language can change, swing this way and that.

As a non-expert I'm personally not comfortable with "current biology and ecology textbooks now use the latter 'de Bary' definition or an even broader definition (i.e. symbiosis = all species interactions)"

Humans have driven some species extinct. That is a type of "species interaction". I deplore the sloppy inane semantics that would call that "symbiosis".

I like the older paradigm where one expects to see some mutual benefit, that even has the potential to support coevolution.

By the way, I see the word "commensal" here. Nice word. I am in a commensal relation to pigs and chickens. (I contribute to feeding them, and sheltering them, and I eat them.) Is that what commensalism means?
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Paralith on June 16th, 2015, 12:30 pm 

I had not been aware of the loosening of the definition either, neuro. But, as we know, it can be hard to maintain hard-line definitions and categories in biology. At least we can say that some symbiotes have a more extreme dependency on each other than others. A human has many other methods of acquiring a mate besides seducing their partner with a carefully tended rose; many plants, however, may fail to reproduce at all if they cannot seduce a few bees into their flowers.

Those symbiotic relationships where one or both parties put so much of their reproductive future in the "hands" of a completely different species are especially intriguing to me. Obligate dependencies, if you will. Yes, humans have many mutual/symbiotic relationships with many different plants and animals, but we are not entirely dependent on any one of those species in particular. If we have an obligate dependency on anything, it's each other.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Paralith on June 16th, 2015, 12:40 pm 

Marshall, it may at first seem extreme to say any species interactions count, but I can see an argument for it. Commensalism, for example, is (was?) defined as a type of symbiosis where one party benefits, but the other does not. But they don't suffer any negative consequences, either. For them the interaction is neutral so they have no particular impetus to stop the interaction from happening. Now, if two species had interactions that were regularly negative for the both of them, well, they'd probably quickly develop the motivation to stay the hell away from each other and said interactions would no longer occur. Thus, any kind of long term repeating interaction between individuals of different species is almost guaranteed to involve some kind of benefit to at least one of them. In fact, perhaps it's the long term repeating nature of the interaction that should receive the greater emphasis.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Marshall on June 16th, 2015, 12:40 pm 

Hi Paralith!
I looked at the Wikipedia article and liked it a lot. Very interesting. Many fascinating examples of explicitly mutualistic symbiosis.
Here is the part that Neuro quoted, to provide context.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbiosis#cite_ref-7

Maybe the problem is just with one sentence. It suggests ALL textbooks, and I'm skeptical of that. Has anyone really examined all? And do they all use the same "de Bary" definition (or the more extreme one).

The sentence just says "biology textbooks use such and such". That could mean SOME do. that might well be true. The sentence is ambiguous. That little flaw in the article could be fixed by editing. But in many ways it is a wonderful article IMHO
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Marshall on June 16th, 2015, 12:51 pm 

Wow! look at this, somebody did a methodical survey
http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.ph ... view/21139
Current Usage of Symbiosis and Associated Terminology
Bradford D. Martin, Ernest Schwab

Abstract

Confusion has afflicted the definition of symbiosis for over 130 years. Despite the lack of discussion in recent times, the usage of symbiosis has evolved and appears to be stabilizing to broader interpretations. Current usage of symbiosis and its associated terminology in 10 current general biology (GB) and 10 general ecology (GE) textbooks is presented. The restrictive definition (i.e. symbiosis = mutualism) has essentially disappeared. All GB textbooks (100%) surveyed used an explicit or implicit “de Bary” definition of symbiosis (i.e. mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism), while only 40% of GE textbooks did the same. General ecology textbooks also included 30% defining symbiosis to constitute all species interactions and 30% that completely avoided usage of the term. When combining GB and GE textbooks to analyze symbiotic usage, 85% defined mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism as symbiotic interactions. Also, 70% considered a symbiosis to be a species interaction that is “intimate,” with 45% of those both “intimate and constant.” Unfortunately, only 5% used the terms ecto-/endosymbiosis, which help discern intimacy and constancy in species interactions. Usage of symbiont (55%) was preferred over symbiote (0%). Predator and prey were defined as organisms (vs. animals) in 90% of GB and GE textbooks, while 55% and 75% described carnivores and herbivores as organisms, respectively. Only 25% discussed predation, parasitism, parasitoidism, and grazing/herbivory, with only one (5%) integrating these +/- agonistic interactions in relation to intimacy and lethality. Data reveals trend of biologists/ecologists using broader definitions.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Braininvat on June 16th, 2015, 12:59 pm 

Also, 70% considered a symbiosis to be a species interaction that is “intimate,” with 45% of those both “intimate and constant.”


This latter definition is how I've encountered the term when studying life sciences in college. The obligate aspect, which Paralith mentioned, seems key. Otherwise, as you said earlier, you get into sloppy semantics.

If a flea lives on me, that's parasitism.

If a dust mite lives on me, it's commensal. (I provide shelter and warmth, receive nothing from it)

If a lactobacillus bulgaricus lives in me, helps me digest my food, while I provide it a home and food, that's a symbiont.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on June 16th, 2015, 1:03 pm 

It annoys me how hung up people get on definitions and miss the point entirely.

When it comes to races (black, white, african, caucation european asian) people are so mixed now, and even before they were mixedthey came from different tribes or regions. Democrats, Republicans, left wing with some right wing ideas does it really matter if the person is going be a good representative? Look beyond the strict definitions at the SPECTRUM (which is the cool part) of symbiosis and it's implication that for the most part, we all rely on one another to exist as we exist and if history had been different we would exist differently. :)
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Marshall on June 16th, 2015, 1:04 pm 

So it looks like symbiosis is officially defined to be mutualism, commensalism, or parasitism.

If you want to talk about the older kind you have to specify the first type and say mutualistic symbiosis

Fair enough. They are the experts, they regulate their branch of academic language.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on June 16th, 2015, 1:35 pm 

tantric » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:03 pm wrote: true, humans could survive without our partners, but the population would have to drop catastrophically.


I didn't really understand this statement. Humans can survive without partners?

and

transpecies altruism is an evolutionary advantage that allows humans to create new mutualistic relationships.


That brings into question on if altruism actually exists or if there is always some subconscious reason for helping.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby tantric on June 16th, 2015, 9:31 pm 

Image

symbiotic means 'lives together'. flowers and bees are mutualists, but not symbiotic. stony corals and their zooxanthellae are mutualistic and symbiotic.

Image

the problem is that the word 'parasite' implies symbiosis. if we were being rational, we would say that a tapeworm is a symbiotic parasite, while a mosquito is a nonsymbiotic parasite....but people get all up in airs about that, so they say 'micropredator' instead. then you get stuff like this:

Image

its a mess, frankly. when you talk disease ecology, you use the simple system of (symbiot OR asymbiot) AND (mutualist OR commensalist OR parasite). that micropredator nonsense if for etymologists.


oh, i did three years of phd study in a wildlife disease ecology program.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby tantric on June 16th, 2015, 9:41 pm 

zetreque » June 16th, 2015, 1:35 pm wrote:
tantric » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:03 pm wrote: true, humans could survive without our partners, but the population would have to drop catastrophically.


I didn't really understand this statement. Humans can survive without partners?

and

transpecies altruism is an evolutionary advantage that allows humans to create new mutualistic relationships.


That brings into question on if altruism actually exists or if there is always some subconscious reason for helping.


okay, 'altruism' is a technical term completely unrelated to the normal sense. mother nature doesn't give a flip about whether or not doing something makes you feel good. in evolutionary biology, altruism means you do something that benefits another and harms yourself....which seems like it could never be a survival strategy, but it is.

Image

okay, i'll be back with variations on the hawk-dove game tomorrow, and how intelligence interacts with these traits, but basically, if you're smart, you can use altruism (self-sacrifice) to create new relationships that become reciprocal altruism. you have to be able to know who you can trust. and when you have this system, you must also have spite - harming another even though it harms yourself, like finding a person who harmed your family or betrayed your group and going to extreme measure to hurt that person, even though there's not gain in it for you and in fact a lot of risk. hawks fight over resources, doves share them. hawks steal from doves, but crows fight with hawks and share with doves...until jays evolve, who run from hawks and crows but steal from doves....

and dammit, i got sent to prison before i could program the model. c'est la vie.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on June 16th, 2015, 9:47 pm 

Would you mind giving more examples from nature. I'm not convinced that anything does true altruism.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby zetreque on June 17th, 2015, 10:41 am 

cool examples. I guess when talking about altruism one must include a time scale for how long a behavior will cost that individual. In the long term it always seems to benefit for overall longer survival rates. Like the bats supporting one another with food. It might cost them in the short term to give up some blood, but there is a higher chance of survival if they have others that feed them if they are so unlucky to not find food for a couple nights.

Humans being sometimes very altruistic have also built an advanced technological civilization that would not be possible without a group of individuals working together to support that civilization by each performing a task within it. One could argue that the better the technology, the better the chance for survival. Not only supporting others of the same species, but supporting other species that help that species survive. In the long term, I'm just not sure the concept of true altruism exists where there can't be an argument made that it helps survival.

I am trying to remember, I think it was some species of wolves where all members of the pack except one would reproduce. Maybe bees and ants work that way too. That seems like the closest example one could have for altruism of a single individual not passing on genes and being individually held back. Then I start to wonder if the individual members of that species or even life itself are really individual or is life just acting as a single organism that is built up of an incredibly complex system of individuals all with the intention of maybe blindly maybe not creating an environment so that it can survive.

Altruism really depends on the perspective and time scale just like anything, which is understandable why others in this thread dove into trying to define symbiotic relationships.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Braininvat on June 17th, 2015, 12:41 pm 

Of course, with altruistic acts that involve self-sacrifice and failure to reproduce, there are still SOME of your genes that may be more likely to be passed along, where that act benefits a group of close blood relations.

What humans do is abstract, i.e. they can envision larger and more tenuously related groups that might prosper in some way due to an act of self-sacrifice. Culture moves from the furthering of one's personal gene set towards that of the species as a whole.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby Paralith on June 17th, 2015, 1:11 pm 

Hey zetreque, you are right about the time scale being key. As tantric said, it's about developing a relationship with reciprocal altruism, which is a long term relationship two individuals have with each other where they trade off taking the hit. "True" altruism, where in one individual always takes the cost and never receives any benefit, is what we would not expect to see in the natural world, and we don't. As you say, cases of human "true" altruism can be attributed to our generally reciprocally altruistic feelings toward other members of our own species, which bring us the benefits of cultivating social cooperative relationships. So, no "true" altruism, but reciprocal altruism does happen a fair amount, though it does require a context where individuals can know and remember each other and maintain continued interactions over time.

The case of wolves and eusocial insects is more a case of kin selection than reciprocal altruism. As Braininvat said, the "benefit" being received by the individuals bearing the costs is the increased reproductive success of their relatives, who can be relied upon to share a minimum number of genes with the cost-bearer. In wolves and meerkats and several other group living mammals, there is often only one breeding female or breeding pair who does not allow any of the others breed, but they help the breeders raise their offspring. However, these groups are largely kin based, and the individuals who are not allowed to breed are usually related to the breeders. And, if they are socially conscious enough to cultivate a high ranking status in the group, their turn to breed may come in time.
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Re: Mutualistic Symbiotic Relationships

Postby doogles on June 17th, 2015, 9:13 pm 

Getting back to examples of mutualistic symbiotic relationships, I would like to add the widespread circumstance of herbivorous mammals (at least, including a number of non-human primates) being highly dependent on the billions of surviving microorganisms in their alimentary canals to break down cellulose. The rumen and caeca become virtual fermentation vats for this purpose. The microorganisms and the host animals thrive when the relationship is healthy and balanced, and our meat-animal supply is ensured.

Apart from this role in the production of gross nutriments in herbivores, mutually-symbiotic intestinal microbes are also responsible for the production of a number of essential vitamins in omnivores (including human beings) as well as in herbivores.
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