Within Earth’s living segments, its biosphere,exists a multitude of ecological interactions through the close contact animalsshare with one another. The interactions occur within the affected organisms’environment, the surrounding conditions that the organism lives and operateswithin. The study of ecology seeks to uncover the relationships that animalsshare which allows for the diversity of live that exists on Earth today, andstudy of the ecosystem allows for a closer look at the interactions withinpopulations in a community. In nature, a community consists of a group ofdependent organisms all from different species that grow and survive with oneanother. An organism’s habitat is the section within the environment where itlives, and its niche describes the roll the organism plays in said environment.There are a multitude of examples of all five types of ecological interactions,competition, predation, parasitism, mutualism, and commensalism, throughoutnature. Competition is a major ecological interaction,where organisms tend to compete for survival due to a number of reasons.
Usually, organisms compete due to a lack of food resources. Known asintraspecific competition, the goal is to reduce the prey’s population andinstead ensure sustainability and survival for the predator. Interspecificcompetition takes place between individuals of different species. Some speciesseek to compete over the same living space, like two species of sea snails: Siphonaria lessonia and Fissurella crassa. Although both speciesfind homes in the crevices of sea caves, the larger of the two snails, Fissurella crassa, force their smaller neighbors to find different homes. Thisforced removal from their shelter negatively affects the species, causing themto reside in more inhospitable environments (Sherwood 2017).
Humans exhibit anexample of interspecific competition through the need for natural resources.For example, humans compete with other animals over fish. Fish, a major foodsource around the world for both humans and animals, is a very valuableresource for both, and both have thus competed for fish through commercialfishing and hunting (Wandrei 2017).Predation is an ecological interaction whereone organism acts as a predator, thus capturing and feeding on a member ofanother species, the prey (Biology-Online 2017). Sharks exhibit an extreme formof intraspecific competition, whereby they resort to intrauterine cannibalismas a means of survival. Through this method, the largest and strongest embryosof sharks act as predators and tend to consume their lesser-developed preyembryos. Dubbed “adelphophagy,” or “eating one’s brother,” embryos compete forsurvival while still in the womb (Elasmo Research 2017). A number of animalshave preyed on humans for hundreds of thousands of years and still continue todo so today.
Among the most lethal predators to humans is the tiger, accountingfor approximately 85 humans deaths per year. A potent example of tigers preyingon humans was in 1907, where the Champawat Bengal tiger killed over 400 peoplein Nepal and India before being shot (Smithsonian National Museum of NaturalHistory 2017).Through parasitism, a parasitic species invadesand consumes the resources and nutrients of its host, benefitting at theexpense of its host without actually killing it. Intercellular parasitesinhabit spaces within the host’s body while intracellular parasites inhabitcells in the body. In animals, parasitism occurs between the tapeworm and pig,for example. A segmented flatworm, the tapeworm attaches itself to the insideof the pig’s intestines, depriving the pig of essential nutrients by consumingpart of its partly digested food (Bar-Yam 2011). Malaria is the result of aprotozoan from the genus Plasmodiumwhich infects humans through the bite of the anopheline mosquito.
The protozoanis parasitic in the human as it consumes the nutrients of the human whileinfecting the human with malaria (Britannica 2018).Mutualism is another ecological interaction,where two organisms of different species depend on one another for protection,nutrients, and other functions required for survival. Both mutualistic animalstend to live within close proximity to one another (Biology-Online 2017).
Inanimals, the rhinoceros shares a mutualistic relationship with the oxpecker, aspecies of bird. The oxpecker lands on the rhino and eats ticks and other outerparasites off of the animal, thus benefitting the rhinoceros by preventingparasitic infections and implantations. The oxpecker benefits because it findsa food source through consumption of these pests (Bar-Yam 2011). Humans andprobiotic bacteria possess a mutualistic relationship. Probiotics are live bacterialcultures found in the human gastrointestinal tract. They destroy and consumemany dangerous and potentially disease-causing bacteria in the human digestivesystem, thus benefitting humans by preventing disease. The probiotics benefitas they are provided with food for survival in the harmful bacterial invaders,and they are given a warm, humid, suitable environment for them to germinateand prosper (Perez et al. 2007).
In nature, commensalism occurs where animalsfrom two different species form a relationship where one organism benefits andthe other is neither positively nor negatively affected. Sharks and the remora,from the family Echineidae, form a relationship of commensalism. The remorarides attached to the shark and has evolved an ovular, flat sucking disk inorder to keep itself on the shark. The remora then feeds on the remnants andleftovers of the shark’s foods. The remora benefits as it is easily movedaround to its food source and finds one due to the shark’s leftover meals, andthe shark is unaffected by its presence (Britannica 2017). Human commensalismis present with dust mites. From birth until death, humans possess many dustmites on the skin which consume dead skin cells, amoeba, and food particlesfrom the human body.
The human is unaffected by the dust mite, yet the dustmite benefits as it finds a home on the human body as well as nourishment forthe particles it consumes on the body (The Gale Group 2002).Life onEarth is exceedingly diverse, and this diversity can be found on every cornerof the biosphere, from the depths of the ocean, to the plains of the savannahs,to up high in the sky. Through the study of ecology and ecologicalinteractions, these animals can be better documented and understood byresearchers. Not only does this documentation provide an enlighteningunderstanding of life on Earth, it also allows conservationists to successfullyprevent the destruction of life on Earth.
Species on Earth are in danger due tohuman activity, and knowledge of the surrounding nature can help preventfuture, permanent mistakes.