Scientists Say: Symbiosis | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Symbiosis

This is a relationship between two species that live better by helping each other
Dec 10, 2018 — 6:30 am EST

This is a maroon anemonefish — otherwise known as a clownfish — with its anemone. The two have a symbiotic relationship.

Barry Peters/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-2.0)

Symbiosis (nous, “Sim-BYE-oh-sis”)

This is a relationship between members of two different species. What makes this relationship special is that both species benefit from being together. Symbiotic species live closely together and provide services for each other. A species in a such a relationship is called a symbiont.

An example of a real symbiotic relationship can be found in the fictional movie Finding Nemo. Nemo the clownfish lived in a sea anemone. Sea anemones often have clownfish living inside their swaying tentacles. Those tentacles are filled with a nasty venom. Their sting keeps most clownfish-hunting predators at bay. In return for protection, the clownfish protects the sea anemone from anemone-seeking predators. The clownfish also nibbles parasites off the tentacles. The clownfish and anemone can live without the other, but they do better together.

In a sentence

On land, acacia trees and ants live together in symbiosis. 

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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

parasite     An organism that gets benefits from another species, called a host, but doesn’t provide that host any benefits. Classic examples of parasites include ticks, fleas and tapeworms.

predator     (adjective: predatory) A creature that preys on other animals for most or all of its food.

sea     An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.

sea anemone     An animal that usually lives on the seafloor and reefs. Although the young larvae disperse through the water, they eventually settle and permanently anchor themselves to a solid structure. They have a tube like structure and resemble a soft, flower. But what appear to be petals are actually stinging tentacles that ring their mouths.

species     A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

symbiosis     (Adj. symbiotic) A relationship between two species that live in close contact. A species that lives this way, offering substantial help to the other species, is sometimes called a symbiont.

venom     A poisonous secretion of an animal, such as a snake, spider or scorpion, usually transmitted by a bite or sting.