Scientists Say: Symbiosis

This is a relationship between two species that live better by helping each other


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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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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