The idea of symbiotic relationships may seem complex at first glance, but the reality is that they are fundamental to almost all relationships on the planet. Not only that, such relationships can be found in every ecosystem of the world and are responsible for many of the things we eat and views we enjoy. Here are just a few examples of symbiotic relationships in the forest.
Fungi and Ants
Ants are marvelous insects. Individually, they have little intelligence or will. They’re like tiny robots directed by a queen. They seek food, expand tunnels, care for young and fight off predators. They also farm, much like humans farm. They plant the spores of certain fungi, nourish them with mulched leaves and debris, allow the fungus to grow and harvest it for food. The fungus is given a place to thrive and the ants are given a constant, readily available food source.
Bees and Flowers
Similar to ants and their fungi farms, bees harvest the pollen of flowers for use back at the hive. Unlike the fungus, flowers have a bit more to get out of the bees. When bees are crawling around in the flowers, flying from bloom to bloom, they gather pollen. This pollen sticks on the fuzzy backs of the bees, stored until it is harvested in leg sacs for transportation. Some pollen is carried from one flower to another, from the male to the female organs in each flower. This cross-pollination is necessary for genetic diversity among flowers, allowing them to form seeds and spread.
Birds and Fruit Trees
While the bees allow flowers to form fruits and seeds, they have nothing to do with the finished product. Birds are the symbiotic creature of choice for many fruit-bearing trees, shrubs and vines. Pollinated flowers form fruits. These fruits ripen and develop seeds. Birds — and other animals, humans included — eat these fruits. The seeds pass relatively unscathed through the digestive system of the animal and are deposited in another location. Humans don’t help plants all that much, with our modern plumbing, but birds go where they please. This spreads seeds and allows the next generation of plants to take root.