Winter Reading, Mutualism in Nature!

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

You know it well, insects like bees and butterfly's feeding on beautiful flowers, but that mutualism, different organisms benefiting one another, has many more amazing examples!

Blue butterfly feeding on Scabiosa ochroleuca flower
Blue sp feeding on Scabiosa ochroleuca

After insects pollinating flowers in exchange for pollen or nectar, the next most prevalent mutualism found in nature is the dispersal of plant seeds by animals who are often rewarded with sugary fruit.

“Acarodomatia, probably the third most successful form of mutualism, that you have never heard of!”

Thanks to the incredible work of professor Gussie Maccracken we now know that this fascinating relationship between insect and plant, in the case of acarodomatia, has been going on for at least 100 MILLION years!?!

What is “acarodomatia” and why should you care? Well' as the third most successful plant/animal relationship today and probably the last 100 million years, we should appreciate that mites living on plants is not necessarily the problem we have been so consistently taught. Acarodomatia refers to tiny structures that many plants ( potentially more than 70% of woody flowering plants) develop to actually house mites! These amazing and very small arthropods are mutualistic with the plants, they actually hunt other insects that might try to damage the plant as well as eating fungus that would also try to attack the plant. In return for this very personal protection the plants provide the mites with tiny, safe homes to return to when the environment is not ideal for their tiny bodies.

As we see the damage we have done in the world we live and try to do better, its time to understand how our attitudes and perspectives played a part. If we can develop our understanding of the natural world, see the significance of the interconnectedness, we can have a brighter, healthier future!

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