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SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ORGANISMS

When two different organisms interact with each other for long periods of time, a special relationship develops and is referred to as symbiosis. Parasitism, commensalism and mutualism are examples of symbiotic relationships.

PARASITISM
A parasitic relationship is one in which one organism, the parasite, lives off of organism, the host, harming it and possibly causing death. The parasite lives on or in the body of the host. Common parasites are viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoans, flatworms (tapeworms and flukes), nematodes, insects (fleas, lice), and arachnids (mites).

Aphids are insects that eat the sap from the plants on which they live. They are parasites to the plant. However, ladybugs which live on these plants will eat the aphids and benefit by getting food, while the plant benefits by being rid of the aphids.

COMMENSALISM
A symbiotic relationship where one organism benefits and the other neither benefits nor gets harmed.

The sea anemone protects the clown fish from predators as most fish avoid the poisonous tentacles of the sea anemone. The clown fish have special mucus on their bodies which prevents them from getting stung. They have no effect on the sea anemone. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant for support. It is not parasitic, but uses the host for support only. Epiphytic plants have aerial roots that absorb moisture from the air, thus allowing it to develop on the tree.

MUTUALISM
A symbiotic relationship where two organisms of different species work together and benefit from the relationship.

The birds obtain food from the ticks and insects found on the body of the ox, thus helping the ox to get rid of these parasites. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in the root nodules of leguminous plants such as the pea plant help the plant to obtain nitrogen in a process called nitrogen fixation. The plants in turn provide nutrients and shelter for the bacteria.

ENERGY FLOW
The two processes that are important to an ecosystem are: the energy flow through the system the cycling of nutrients through the system

The first source of energy in an ecosystem is the Sun. Producers, mainly made up of plants, capture about 1% of light energy from the sun and convert it into chemical energy for photosynthesis. Energy is used by organisms for respiration, growth, movement and reproduction. Energy is not used by the cells is stored and provides food for other consumers. However, not all the energy is used or stored efficiently. Only about 10% of energy from one trophic level is passed on to the next trophic level.