Symbiosis

Owls keep little snakes as their pets. Eastern screech owls bring blind snakes to their nests to rid them of larvae and parasites so their babies will grow faster and stronger. The snakes don’t seem to mind, because they hang around and eat like crazy until the nestlings hatch and then slither back down to find a new home underground. Source Source 2

What’s on that whale?!

This close up of whale skin shows a community of living creatures. Gray Whales have two common hitchhikers on their bodies: barnacles and whale LICE.

But whale lice aren’t lice at all; they’re a type of amphipod crustacean called cyamids. And each species of cyamid is unique to a species of whale! To survive, cyamids hitch a ride on a whale and munch bits of its skin and flesh. If the whale is healthy these parasites don’t harm it - a commensal relationship. If a whale is covered in them it is often an indication of illness or injury.

Photo by refuge volunteer Roy W. Lowe

(via: Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuges)

Bacteria from bees possible alternative to antibiotics

Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey – as we now know it – was manufactured and sold in stores. So what is the key to its’ antimicrobial properties? Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria found in fresh honey, from the honey stomach of bees. The bacteria produce a myriad of active antimicrobial compounds.

These lactic acid bacteria have now been tested on severe human wound pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), among others. When the lactic acid bacteria were applied to the pathogens in the laboratory, it counteracted all of them.

Tobias C Olofsson, Èile Butler, Pawel Markowicz, Christina Lindholm, Lennart Larsson, Alejandra Vásquez. Lactic acid bacterial symbionts in honeybees - an unknown key to honey’s antimicrobial and therapeutic activities. International Wound Journal, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/iwj.12345

Working bees on honey cells (stock image). Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey – as we now know it – was manufactured and sold in stores. Credit: © Dmytro Smaglov / Fotolia
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The fruit of the lobeira tree are incredibly bitter - so bitter, in fact, that almost no animals consume them, including humans. However, the maned wolf - normally a carnivore - consumes the fruit of the lobeira tree because it contains a chemical which acts as a natural remedy for a type of parasitic worm that frequently infects the kidneys of the maned wolf. In return, the wolf defecates the seeds of the lobeira tree, increasing the odds that the seeds with grow. But the symbiotic relationship doesn’t stop there.

Maned wolves specifically defecate onto the mounds of leaf cutter ants, which use the wolves’ feces to grow a certain type of fungus that they consume for food. They bring the seeds down into the burrow and later move them outside of the nest, greatly increasing the germination rate of the seeds. So the wolf helps the ants by providing the fertilizer for their food, the ant reciprocates by helping the wolf’s food grow, the tree aids the wolf by growing fruit which treats it parasitic infections, and the wolf helps the tree by delivering its seeds straight to its gardeners, the leaf cutter ants. 

I love when someone discovers something new and exciting!

 How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology - The Atlantic

In the 150 years since Schwendener, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two partners would never fully recreate their natural structures. It was as if something was missing—and Spribille might have discovered it.

He has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view.  

“There’s been over 140 years of microscopy,” says Spribille. “The idea that there’s something so fundamental that people have been missing is stunning.”  

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION ALTERS FISH-JELLYFISH SYMBIOSIS

One-third of carbon dioxide emitted by humans enters the oceans, making seawater more acidic. Models project a 0.3-0.4 drop in the global average of ocean pH by 2100, and for oceans, this is dangerous.  Global change is rapidly altering environmental conditions, but, with the exception of coral–microalgae interactions, we know little of how this will affect symbiotic relationships.

Symbiotic relationships are common in nature, and are important for individual and sustaining species populations as well. A recent study show that a well-known example of symbiosis relationship between baby fish looking for shelter in poisonous tentacles of jellyfish will be harmed under predicted future conditions of ocean acidification, the results are publishes in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Researchers studied the actions of juvenile fish in an aquarium under high CO2 conditions. Compared to the control group, they spent much less time with the jellyfish host (about three times less), while only 63% (compared to 86%) initiated any relationship at all.

-  Another case of symbiosis between jellyfish and fishes. Diverse Juvenile fish species in a Versuriga anadyomene jellyfish, filmed by Stewart Whitfield.

Because shelter is not widely available in the open water column and larvae of many (and often commercially important) pelagic species associate with jellyfish for protection against predators, modification of the fish–jellyfish symbiosis might lead to higher mortality and alter species population dynamics, and potentially have flow-on effects for their fisheries.

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Yucca flowers (by flora-file)

“For more than 40 million years there has been a relationship between yucca plants and yucca moths.  It’s a particularly important one because neither the yucca or the moth can survive without the other.  The moth’s larvae depend on the seeds of the yucca plant for food, and the yucca plant can only be pollinated by the yucca moth.”  (read more)
-via The Prairie Ecologist