Strange Friends With Benefits: Nature's Weird Buddies

There are many strange symbiotic relationships in the world that are worth exploring. From the tiny creatures that live in the mouths of crocodiles to the fungi that live inside the brains of ants.


Symbiotic relationships are fascinating, especially when they involve unlikely partners. There are many strange symbiotic relationships in the world that are worth exploring. From the tiny creatures that live in the mouths of crocodiles to the fungi that live inside the brains of ants, these relationships highlight the interconnectedness of life on our planet.

Let's take a closer look at some of these strange symbiotic relationships and what makes them so unique.

Aphids, ants and bees

Aphids, ants and bees are all part of a fascinating symbiotic relationship that has been studied extensively by scientists. This relationship is known as mutualism, which means that both parties benefit from the interaction. Some scientific studies have even established that ants have learned how to farm the aphids by manipulating them to remain in close proximity with their chemicals.

In this case, aphids are tiny insects that feed on the sap of plants. They secrete a sugary substance called honeydew that is attractive to ants and bees. The mutualistic relationship between these three organisms works as follows:

  1. Aphids feed on the sap of plants and produce honeydew.
  2. Ants and bees are attracted to the sweet honeydew and consume it as a source of energy.
  3. In exchange for access to the honeydew, ants, and bees protect aphids from predators and parasites. Ants will even go as far as carrying aphids to new plants and protecting them from natural enemies.
  4. Bees, on the other hand, benefit from the honeydew because it provides them with an alternative source of food when nectar is scarce.

Crocodile and Plover Bird

Another remarkable symbiotic relationship in the animal kingdom is the one between crocodiles and plover birds. The Nile crocodile is known for its powerful jaws and razor-sharp teeth, which can easily crush bones. However, despite their fearsome reputation, crocodiles often have their mouths cleaned by tiny plover birds.

The plover bird hops into the open jaws of the crocodile and feeds on bits of food that are stuck between the teeth. In return, the bird helps the crocodile by removing parasites and bacteria from its mouth, which can cause infections. This relationship is beneficial to both species, as the bird gets a meal while the crocodile gets a free dental floss.

Ants and Fungi

Ants are known for their highly organized societies and their ability to work together to build complex structures. However, some species of ants have taken their teamwork to a whole new level by forming a symbiotic relationship with fungi.

Leaf-cutter ants are known for carrying large pieces of leaves back to their nests, where they use them to cultivate a specific type of fungus. The ants feed the fungus with bits of leaves and other organic matter, and in return, the fungus produces specialized food that the ants eat.

This symbiotic relationship is so complex that the ants have even evolved special structures on their bodies that allow them to cultivate the fungus more efficiently.

Oxpecker and Rhinoceros

The oxpecker is a bird that is commonly found in Africa. These birds have a unique symbiotic relationship with large mammals like rhinoceroses, zebras, and giraffes. The bird feeds on the ticks and other parasites that live on the skin of these animals, keeping them free from disease.

In return, the oxpecker gets a steady supply of food and a safe place to live. This relationship is so strong that oxpeckers have been known to follow their host animals for long distances, even when they migrate to different parts of the continent.

Clownfish and Sea Anemones

The relationship between clownfish and sea anemones is one of the most famous examples of symbiosis in the ocean. The clownfish is immune to the sting of the sea anemone, which provides it with a safe place to live. In return, the clownfish helps the sea anemone by bringing in food and removing waste.

This relationship is so strong that the clownfish will often defend its host sea anemone from predators, even risking its own life to do so.

In conclusion, the world is full of strange and fascinating symbiotic relationships that highlight the interconnectedness of life on our planet. From crocodiles and plover birds to clownfish and sea anemones, these relationships show that even the most unlikely partners can work together to achieve mutual benefits. Understanding these relationships can help us appreciate the complexity and beauty of the natural world.

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