Science Notes & News by Eric Borneman & Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D.

Invertebrate Tidbits

Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D.

Hay, M. E., J. D. Parker, D. E. Burkepile, C. C. Caudill, A. E. Wilson, Z. P. Hallinan, and A. D. Chequer. 2004. Mutualisms And Aquatic Community Structure: The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 35: 175-197.


Mutualisms occur when interactions between species produce reciprocal benefits. However, the outcome of these interactions frequently shifts from positive, to neutral, to negative, depending on the environmental and community context, and indirect effects commonly produce unexpected mutualisms that have community-wide consequences. The dynamic, and context dependent, nature of mutualisms can transform consumers, competitors, and parasites into mutualists, even while they consume, compete with, or parasitize their partner species. These dynamic, and often diffuse, mutualisms strongly affect community organization and ecosystem processes, but the historic focus on pairwise interactions decoupled from their more complex community context has obscured their importance. In aquatic systems, mutualisms commonly support ecosystem-defining foundation species, underlie energy and nutrient dynamics within and between ecosystems, and provide mechanisms by which species can rapidly adjust to ecological variance. Mutualism is as important as competition, predation, and physical disturbance in determining community structure, and its impact needs to be adequately incorporated into community theory.


This article is a very interesting bit of reading and a great reference for someone wanting to learn about the "nuts and bolts" of mutualisms, such as how and why they occur, and the evidence for various aspects of this category of biological interactions. The interactions between coral reef animals and zooxanthellae are dealt with, as well as many other types of mutualisms.

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Science Notes & News by Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D.-