Humans Beings And Animals Live In Symbiosis

Hyena with left overs from lion kill
Hyena with left overs from lion kill

I may be wrong, but for the whole of this year, the only time that good news hit the headlines was the time it was announced that President Obama was coming to Kenya. Most other times, headlines are always screaming bad or very bad news.

Some may be considered comical, some absurd, some not worth time taken reading them. But some news, good or bad, are good read, especially news that generate interrogation on the character of the source of the news.

Just last week, one very controversial politician came up with a statement about the international criminal court and the sourcing of the witnesses, mentioning names of alleged collaborators. One reply from the named collaborators set me thinking.

She had said of the politician: “If you hear a dog barking, look for its owner." Meaning that the politician was not speaking for himself, but for someone else. He was merely a messenger.

Days after that, a well-known politician used derogatory words against the President, during a political rally called by the opposition. Again, there were talks about him being a mouthpiece of a senior opposition politician.

We are looking at relationships here. People living together or forming relationships for various reasons. Among nature’s most intriguing phenomena are the partnerships formed by different species. The names we use to describe these relationships is called symbiosis. What is symbiosis?

The Wikipedia, the most trusted online dictionary gives the definition of symbiosis as “a close and often long-term interaction between two different species". Key word here is “different”.

As in the case of the newsmakers described above, the difference is not in the species, but in the character and personality. But it is symbiotic. The name symbiosis comes from Latin language that simply means, living together.

There are three major types of symbiotic relationships.

Commensal relationship

This is a relationship where one partner heavily gains from the association, while the other gains very little or nothing at all. If you are a fan of watching the Nat Geo Wild, you may have come across a video clip showing a shark with a small slender fish swimming alongside it.

The small fish is called Remora. It attaches itself on any large predator fish, using a sucker positioned on top of his head. It does not harm the big fish in any way but gains in two different ways: by obtaining free transport, and eating the scraps left from the kill made by the big fish.

Closer home, I would use the example of the hyena and the lions. In the wildlife conservancies, hyenas follow lions everywhere they go, as long as they are showing signs of hunger and a possibility of hunting. As soon as the lions hunt, the hyenas will sit by the side and wait for the lion to eat.

They will then clean up the mess by eating the scraps left by the lions, bones, skins and anything else the predators may have left behind. Notice that the lions do not benefit at all from the relationship while the hyenas are all fed up and healthy courtesy of the predator.

Mutualistic relationship

This is a relationship that can be termed as a true partnership in which both partners benefit from being together or living together. It is interesting to note that in this relationship, both parties contribute equally. The action of one partner is intended to benefit both, whichever way you look at it.

The relationship maybe limited to a season, as in the case of the zebras and wildebeests grazing together in the plains of Mara. They gather together as a group regardless of difference in species for the sole purpose of protecting themselves from predation.

As it is from this mutual relationship, each individual can live alone and survive. But the partnership increases the chances of good life, by using the benefit of special senses used by other species to detect danger.

Parasitic relationship

This is probably the best known since it is the easiest to describe and most practised by human species. It is a relationship where one partner gains heavily while at the same time, hurting and sometimes killing the other: a politician who will go all the way to hurt another so long as there is a token to gain, a partner who will kill in order to inherit, or a runner who will stay behind another to spike him so as to win the race.

Where do you belong?