Monday, August 31, 2015

The Light at the End of the Lure: Angler Fish and Bioluminescent Bacteria

Originally I had wanted to write about the relationship between male and female angler fish, a sexual suicide for the males during the mating process. However, upon looking into symbiotic relationships that the angler fish holds, I found out about the relationship between female angler fish and bioluminescent bacteria. I suppose the tiny male angler fish will have to wait until next time...

Prior to becoming informed I always thought that the light produced at the end of the female angler fish lure (the antennae on the head) was a natural phenomena that the female herself produced. In reality, the light that is vital to her hunting and mating habits is being produced by symbiotic bacteria. Photobacteria, as it's called, enter the end of the lure through pores to gain nutrients off the angler host. Once inside they live in the pouch and produce the valuable light for the female. In addition, the chemical reaction that provides the light can only happen when this symbiotic relationship occurs. Because both parties benefit from this endosymbiotic mutualism, it's a win-win for the female fish and the bacteria... somewhat better than the gruesome relationship between the male and female angler fish.

Links used:
Deep Sea Angler Fish - Queens of the Glowing Depths (The Naked Scientists)
A Light in the Darkness (Understanding Evolution)
Symbiotic Relationship: Mutualism between the ClownFish (Amphiprioninae) and the Sea Anemone.

Amongst the 1,000 different type of anemone species that are in the ocean, only 10 species can have an obligatory symbiosis with the clown fish. They are highly dependent on each other for survival. The mutual symbiotic relationship between these two is reached in many ways. The clown fish lives between the anemones tentacles benefiting from its nutrients and cleaning the anemone. Also giving each other mutual protection from predators, like the butterfly fish. 
Guess nemo should of stayed in the anemone after all...... 


The Bullhorn Acacia Tree & Ants: A Short Story

As learned earlier, nature is crawling with symbiotic relationships of all forms. Some are extremely apparent, others a bit more hidden. One such relationship is that of the Bullhorn Acadia Tree and a particular species of stinging ants. This is a perfect example of mutualism, in that the tree is made up of large thorns, shaped like those of a bull. The ants living in these thorns hollow them out and utilize them as shelter for the colony. The ants are also able to receive two valuable food sources from the tree: sweet nectar from structures called nectaries and from food nodules known as beltian bodies at the tips of the leaves. In return, the tree receives protection from the ants, as they are very protective of their new found friend. The colony will attack any insect that penetrates the surface and remove any neighboring vegetation from the premises, meaning the Bullhorn Acacia is able to grow twice as large and three times as healthy. 

In this relationship, the tree would be considered the host and the ant the symbiont. 
And they lived happily ever after!

photo cred:

The Honey-Guide and the Honey Badger(Ratel): A true story of love and symbiosis.

The Honey-Guide and the Honey Badger could not be more dissimilar: one being a dainty bird, and the other being a viscous mammal, known for its love of taking down large prey and munching on poisonous reptiles for fun. What they do have in common, though, is a love and necessity for what composes those delicious bee hives.
All the Honey-Guide desires is the waxy walls of the bee hive that serve as it's main food source. However, getting to the inner walls is not easy, and bees are scary/ liable to sting. Thus, the honey-guide finds a friend to do all of the dirty work. Since the Ratel (or honey badger, as it is known) only craves the honey from within the nest, and has a thick, coarse layer of fur that protects it from stings, it proves the perfect ally. The honey-guide locates as nest and then notifies the ratel by making a high pitched chirping noise and flashing its wings to entice the badger to follow. Once there, the honey badger takes down the nest and eats until full; whereafter the honey-guide scavenges the remains. This proves to be the perfect mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship in which both happy parties leave fed and full.
Fun fact: Honey-Guides don't just guide ratels to the delightful hives; they're also known for helping humans find honey faster then they could've done otherwise!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sloth and Moth: It's a rhyme and the symbiosis is sublime!

Watch this video to understand the mutually symbiotic relationship between sloth and moth.

In this video, Jason gives us the lowdown about 5 symbiotic relationships.
Since my focus, however, is Sloth and Moth, you just need to pay attention to that part.

Other sources:

A mutualistic symbiotic relationship between Costa Rican three-toed sloths and cryptoses moths exists. It is also ectosymbiotic, that is, moths live ON the sloths. This relationship is complex, but also beneficial in many ways to both parties.

Every three-toed sloth has approximately 120 cryptoses moths living exclusively on it at any given time. These moths are completely dependent on the sloths. A sloth's hair "contains cracks that collect rainwater, and act as miniature hydroponic gardens for growing algae." (Can Moths Explain Why Sloths Poo on the Ground, Ed Yong,

The moths feed off of the sloth's skin secretions and the algae which grows on the sloth's fur containing nutrients essential to the well-being of the moths.

So, how does this algae benefit the sloth? First of all, the green algae adhering to the sloth's fur provides a natural camouflage to predators. This algae is also nutritionally beneficial to the sloth. It provides nutrients absent in the three-toed sloth's diet. I'll explain by citing the summarized research of Jonathan Pauli, an ecologist at University of Wisconsin, Madison. He calls the sloth a "mobile ecosystem."

Once a week the three-toed sloth descends from its tree to defecate, whereas two-toed sloths very rarely descend to do so. This begs the questions, "Why does the three-toed sloth do it and the two-toed sloth not? And, why risk a predator attack likely ending in death to do so?" We all know that sloths are slow, and susceptible to predatorial attacks, but there has got to be a reason why the three-toed sloths take this risk.

It has everything to do with differences in diet. The two-toed guys forage on a wider  variety of plants, offering substantial nutrition. The three-toed sloths eat only from the canopy, having less variety in their diet, left to gain nutrients from other sources and by other methods. Through his study of brown throated, three-toed sloths, Pauli discovered and theorized that the number of moths, amount of algae, and the nitrogen content of the fur were all directly proportional and there was a much higher content of all 3 in the three-toed than the two-toed sloths, therefore a higher amount of absorbable nutrients–which makes up for the poor diet of the three-toed sloths. On the flip side, two-toed sloths are not reliant on the moths or the algae for nutritional needs.

Sloths and Moths: A Mobile Ecosystem, Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

A further example of the sloth-moth ecosystem (symbiotic relationship) is that when the sloth descends its tree to defecate, the female moths leave the sloth's fur to lay its eggs in the waste. Once the eggs are laid, the moths return to the fur of the sloth, die and decompose with the help of fungi and bacteria present in the sloth's fur. Nitrogen, a product of the decay of the decomposed moth bodies, serves as a fertilizer for the algae. And, the larvae at ground level feed exclusively on the excrement of the sloth. Once the larvae has metamorphosed into moths, the moths fly to the canopy to find a sloth to inhabit. And, so the cycle continues.

Symbiotic Relationship: Obligate Mutualistic Bees & pollen

Obligate Mutualistic is an organism that needs one another. Without the other, both organism won't survive. An example of this would be a bee and pollen. Bees need pollen to survive that how they get their nutrition as well with plants.  "The plant receives courier service: pollinators deliver pollen (male) directly to the female parts of the flower. without the deliverer (pollinators) many insect pollinated plants would be extinct(bees.techno-science". This is a good example of how some organisms need one another to where they provide each other important need for Nature. Plants need pollination for it to reproduce so when an organism (bee) does it's thing the "fertilization happens so a fruit, and a seed can develop(bees.techno-science". This is something cool to learn about. I hate bees. They scare me but knowing it helps nature, and creates beautiful flowers to blossom their not so bad.


Symbiotic Relationship: Parasitism

Okapis and the Nematode Worm

Okapis, the national animal of the Congo, are rare in the wild. The okapis natural habitat is the Ituri Forest in central Africa and is a dense rain forest. Okapis have very highly developed hearing and run from humans which is why scientists didn’t know they existed until 1900. Natives of the Ituri Forest knew of them because of the pit traps they set for hunting. Okapis are now an endangered animal. Currently, scientists estimate that there are only 25,000 okapis in the wild. Many okapi deaths are due to parasitism of the nematode worm. The nematode worm is described as “probably the most numerous animals on Earth.” The nematode worm can adapt to many different environments, fresh water, soil or even polar regions. The nematode worm has adapted to the liver of the okapi. The worm enters the okapi’s body and lives inside the liver. They feed on the blood of the okapi. This causes liver failure, leaving the okapi to die. Nematode worms range from microscopic to 5 centimeters, or two inches. These worms are usually 5-100 micrometers thick, at least 0.1 millimeters long and with structures like ridges or rings. This is a parasitic relationship because of the harm the nematode worm does to the okapi. The worm reaps all the benefits of this relationship.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Symbiotic Relationship: Mutualism

The Mutualistic Relationship between Dog and Human

Mutualism is a symbiosis that is beneficial to both organism involved. I found that a dog and a human was the most easiest to relate to because it's very common to see in our communities that dogs are accepted into families and most of the time, they're loved by everyone. For some people, the purpose of having a dog is being able to protect or be the house watcher when family members are gone.
Dogs are known to be loyal and clever, they understand when their owner is in need and they are cautious about their environment when needed. But there happens to be a fine line between being protective and aggressive. Which leads owners to specially train their dogs on how to act in appropriate situations. This is beneficial to the family because they will feel more secure in their neighborhoods and also, it's like having another family member! As for the dog, the dog receives food and shelter for just being a well trained dog. Although it's already their first instinct to act when they feel that their owner is in danger but it does take a lot of self discipline to handle the situation in the right way. Having this relationship benefits both human and dog because it builds trust between the two and both are able to feel comfortable in their own homes.