Symbiosis is the interaction between organisms in an ecosystem. These interactions can be helpful, harmful, or neutral. There are five different types of symbiosis.
To better understand symbiosis…
LET’S BREAK IT DOWN!
Predation is a type of symbiosis in which one animal eats another. We call the animal that gets eaten, prey. Although it seems gruesome, predation is essential to maintaining an ecosystem. For example, rabbits eat plants. But if there were too many rabbits, they could eat all of the plants, and then some of the rabbits would starve to death. Foxes keep the rabbit population from getting too big, and because there are fewer rabbits, more plants can survive. Predatory relationships exist in all ecosystems.
Competition is a type of symbiotic relationship in which two organisms compete for the same resource (their prey). If two animals both hunt the same prey (e.g., the hawk and the owl both hunt for rodents, lizards, and small birds), then one or both could be limited in growth and reproduction. However, when we observe them, we notice that hawks hunt during the day and owls hunt at night. So they are usually not competing at the same time.
There are competitive relationships in many ecosystems. But over many generations, we find that both organisms have adapted and found a specialty that allows both to thrive. For example, they hunt at different times (hawk and owl), they might have developed great speed or strength (cheetah and lion), or they hunt using different techniques (leopard seals typically hunt penguins close to the edge of land, whereas killer whales hunt in pods).