Sunday, September 7, 2014

Humans and Bonsai, Remora and Sharks: Symbiotic Relationships

          The concept of “survival of the fittest” has provided pavement for the construction of our understanding of the natural world. From zoo visits as a child to high school biology classes, this pessimistic view of natural law has been pushed. The western world readily accepts “survival of the fittest” as truth because it surrounds us so obviously in our human society. Capitalism and the glorifying of competition make us inclined to this bleak view of nature, since it is how we choose to govern ourselves.
            However, just as there are different economic systems, the biological world doesn’t operate under a single policy. Symbiotic relationships demonstrate the variety of ways it is possible to survive in the natural world, carried out in parallel to the notion of “survival of the fittest”. Specifically, mutualistic symbiotic relationships among different species prove that creatures can benefit from each other’s existence without constantly competing against each other.
            Humans and bonsai trees illustrate a mutually beneficial relationship. Many people find caring for bonsai trees meditative, and the practice become popularized as an artistic hobby worldwide after Japan ended its cultural isolation in the late 1800’s. The plants are very delicate and require a great amount of physical and emotional commitment, thus the plants couldn’t survive without the care of a human. Transversely, humans find tending to a bonsai an emotionally rewarding experience. In this relationship, the two species rely on each other for physical or mental support.
            Symbiotic relationships are also common in the sea. Remora fish are “cleaners” who attach to larger sea animals, commonly sharks, and eat the bacteria off of the larger creatures body. Because the remora hangs onto the shark wherever it goes, the fish gains protection against predators as well as a consistent source of food. Sharks benefit from the remora’s presence because the cleaner keeps the shark healthy by eating potentially disease-causing bacteria.
            Cooperation between species is equally as crucial as the concept of “survival of the fittest”, although it’s nature is easily forgotten. The relationships shared by the aforementioned species demonstrate mutualistic symbiotic relationships and the dependence many creatures have on each other.

"What Are Bonsai?" What Are Bonsai? Web Japan, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014.

"Sharks and Remora Fish." Symbiotic Relationships. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014.


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