Among the relationships between different species of organisms that take place in nature (interspecific relationships), one of the lesser known types is protocooperation. It is a biological interaction similar to mutualism, with which it is sometimes confused, in terms of what each organism obtains, but with slight differences compared to it.
In this Green Ecologist article we will talk about the protocooperation, its definition and some examples.
It can define the protocol like a mutualistic interaction between two organisms that obtain a benefit of this relationship. These interrelationships can take place between organisms of different species or even different kingdoms of nature. In protocooperation, individuals do not have the obligation to establish ties, since they can survive without receiving the help of others. But nevertheless, are related because it is beneficial for both species. Thus, protocooperation is opposed to symbiotic relationships, where both individuals depend on the relationship to survive, that is, the absence of a relationship means the death of the other organism. Here we talk more about What is symbiosis in ecology with examples.
Examples of protocooperation are abundant in nature. One of the most representative cases is the relationship between the bacteria that develop in the soil and the vegetation that grows. In this relationship, neither bacteria nor plants need the help of the other organism, but they benefit from this relationship. Thus, plants obtain nutrients generated by bacteria and bacteria obtain materials to decompose. This example occurs in all fertile soils, showing that protocooperative relationships are possible in any environment.
Mutualism It is another biological interaction that occurs between two species and can be divided into two main types:
The protocol It is framed within the non-symbiotic mutualistic relationshipsSince organisms do not depend on the relationship for their survival, but establish it because it brings benefits to both. In the event that both individuals have a similar size, they can exchange food, nutrients or hormones, benefiting both.
As we have said, there are a large number of cases of this relationship in nature. Between the most common protocooperation examples is it so:
A great diversity of insects such as butterflies, bees and bumblebees feed on the nectar of flowers. The body of these insects is impregnated with pollen when they approach the flowers to feed and when they fly, they transport the pollen to other flowers, favoring cross pollination. In this other post by Green Ecologist we will talk about what are pollinating insects and their importance.
As we can see, although the relationship is beneficial for both, they do not depend on it for their survival, since the flowers can reproduce thanks to the action of other factors such as the wind and the insect can feed on other species.
There are birds, such as oxpeckers, that can perch on the body of large mammals (antelopes, rhinos, giraffes, elephants or buffalo) and feed on unwanted parasites in these animals (such as fleas or ticks).
In this relationship, the bird is transported by the animal, while the mammal remains healthy by eliminating the parasites. Oxpeckers are also believed to emit alarm signals when the animal is in danger to come to their aid.
There are fish that are "cleaners" for other larger fish species. This type of relationship is common on reefs, where larger fish come to be "cleaned."
One of these cases is that of pilot fish (Naucrates ductor), which feed on parasites and food scraps left by sharks. They can also clean the mouths of sharks, which never eat them because they know they get this benefit from them.
Aphids drill holes in trees to feed on their sage and ants, instead of eating them, stimulate them with their antennae to secrete honeydew. Ants protect aphids from predators, so both species benefit, but the plant dies.
Mycorrhizae are associations between fungi and vascular plant roots, where the plants gain access to nutrients that they cannot otherwise get and the fungus, instead, obtains carbon from the plant.
This is another clear example of proto-cooperation, since the sea anemone is transported attached to the crab shell to areas with more food and the anemone protects and provides food for the crab.
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