Mutualism | Definition, Types & Examples

By | August 17, 2019


Mutualism Definition and Example:

Mutualism is described as two living organisms of different species associated with each other to gain benefits of their need. Mutualisms arrangement occurs between the organisms with the different living requirement. In mutualisms, both species work together to gain benefits of their own need.

In the short term, mutualism defined as a relationship between two different organisms to get result positive (beneficial) effects on the survival of the population. In the mutualistic relationship, both individuals depend on each other. Due to this dependency, they cannot survive without each other. Both species cooperate with each other in order to get their mean of a positive result (benefits). Two different organisms totally rely on one another for survival. Individuals live in mutualistic relationship for many important reasons (benefits), such as for shelter, production, get food, or grow up.

The mutualistic relationship between bee and flower is a good example. Bees gather nectars by flying from flower to flower. Bees use nectar to prepare their food. By this bees get benefit from flowers. When bees sit on a flower, some pollen grains stick with their hairy body, and when they land on another flower, some of the pollen grains rub off and left on the flower. By this process, pollination is done, and this is the benefit of a flower. In this mutualism relationship, bees gain benefit for making food and flower get the benefit of reproduction.


Mutualism Synonyms:

Some possible synonym or similar meaning words are the following:

  • Mutuality
  • Symbiosis
  • Trophobiosis
  • Sextet
  • Morale
  • Octet
  • Collusion
  • Collaboration
  • Interconnection
  • Harmony
  • Pooling
  • Teamwork
  • Cooperation
  • symbiosis

Types of Mutualism:

Mutualism is a relationship between two organisms called a host and a symbiont. There are five categories of mutualistic relationship:

Obligate Mutualism

Facultative Mutualism

Trophic Mutualism

Defensive Mutualism

Dispersive Mutualism

  • Obligate Mutualism:

In an obligate mutualistic relationship, both organisms (individuals) completely depend on each other. Each individual cannot survive without another. Most symbioses and some non-symbioses are examples of this mutualistic relationship.


  • Facultative Mutualism:

In a facultative mutualism relationship, both individuals may coexist independently. They use a diffuse relationship which involves a varying mixture of species.


  • Trophic Mutualism:

In a trophic mutualistic relationship, both individuals are specialized in many ways to get energy and nutrients from each other. Both organisms have special abilities to get benefits such as get food, energy and grow up.


  • Defensive Mutualism:

In a defensive mutualistic relationship, one individual gets food, and shelter from another organism. And in return, it helps the other individual by defending against the herbivores or predators or parasites.


  • Dispersive Mutualism:

In a dispersive mutualistic relationship, one individual gets food from other individuals. In return, that individual helping flowers in the process of pollination by transferring their pollens.


Mutualism Examples:

The bacteria and the human describe the mutualism relationship in a better way. The intestine of humans and many other animals contain a specific kind of bacteria. Humans digest all their food with the help of bacteria. Without using bacteria, the human body cannot perform the digestion process on its own. Which food humans cannot digest, bacteria eat them, and partially digest it. The bacteria have the benefit of getting food, and the human gets the benefit for digestion of their food which they eat.

Interaction between algae and fungus contains lichens, and interaction between termites and the protozoa that perform their digestion process by work together, are the examples of a mutualistic relationship. They cannot perform the digestion process on their own. They are dependent on each other for the digestion process.


Examples of Mutualism in the Ocean:

  • Cleaner Shrimp & Various Fish:

Cleaner shrimp are the common reef species. They can be spotted at various numbers of Ďstationsí, where multiple marine species gather to have their bodies and mouths to get rid of parasites and dead cells. The cleaner shrimp feed them regularly, and the larger species gets to start the week fresh with no blemishes. This is the common form of mutualism.

  • Isopods and Fish:

In the ocean, any fish that is in the wretched clutches of a parasitic relationship with the isopods. The isopods directly get benefits while at the same time, it harms its symbiont. First, it eats the victimís tongue and then getting the first bite of everything. Then, the fish get benefits hereafter.

  • Sea Anemone and Clownfish:

In the ocean, the sea anemone and clownfish is a great example of a mutualistic relationship. In this relationship, both organisms get benefits from having the other around. The sea anemone secures the clownfish by concealing it with its poisonous arms. And it leaving scrapes of its meal for the clownfish to consume. And in returns, the clownfish rids the anemone of parasites and even it offers nutrients to the anemone by the way of its excrement.

  • Whale and Barnacle:

Whale and barnacle is another example of a mutualistic relationship. The whale gets no reward from the barnacles, which is attached to its body. The barnacle gets great rewards by attaching itself to the body of a whale because of its filter-feeding nature. The barnacle gets food source by attaching itself to the body of the whale.


Mutualism Illustration:

Mutualisms associate between different individuals to get benefits of their own. Both individuals get benefits from each other with respect to their need. Several well-known examples exist in nature. The partnership between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and leguminous is the better example of a mutualistic relationship.

Mutualism Commensalism and Parasitism:

  • Mutualism Commensalism:

Commensalism is a mutualistic relationship, in which one individual gets benefits from others, and the other organism is not affected by its partner. One individual uses the other for a specific purpose other than getting food. For instance, mites get the benefit of Ďfree rideí by attaches themselves to larger flying insects.

  • Mutualism Parasitism:

Parasitism is a mutualistic relationship, in which one individual called parasite is benefited while another individual called host is harmed from others. Some parasites live on the surface or skin of their host. And some parasites live inside the host.

For example, the roundworms are parasites for organisms such as mammals (including humans), doges, and cats. The roundworms lay a large number of eggs, which exerts in the hostís feces to the environment.


Examples of Mutualism:

10 Examples of Mutualism described below:

The relationship between ants and acacia trees is a good example of mutualisms. Ants live on the nectar of Acacia trees. Ants get benefits from Acacia trees in the form of shelter and food. In return, ants secure trees from attacking insects and grazing animals.

The relationship between humans and plants act as mutualism. Humans need oxygen for their survival and plants to need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Human use oxygen which is given by plants and plants use carbon dioxide given by humans. In this, both individuals get benefits.

Cleaning Mutualisms: The bird oxpecker lives on the rhino. By eating them, it removes all bugs and parasites on the animal skin. In reverse act, rhino provides food to the birds.

The yucca moth has a mutualism with the yucca plant. The yucca moth helps in the pollination process in the plants, and moth produces eggs in the seedpods of the plant. This gives food, security for larvae.

Another interesting example of mutualism is between species of ants and aphids. Aphid is a tiny insect present on plants. Aphids get their nutrients by sucking fluids of the plants. They secrets sugar as wastes, after digestion. And ants eat this sugar and gain nutrient from it. In return, ants provide protection, transport from plant to plant and care for them.