What Is Symbiosis?

Symbiosis is the "long-term living together of unlike organisms". Here we explore how symbiotic relationships evolve over time.

Subjects: Biology, Evolution

Overview

People often associate symbiosis with mutualism – the cooperation of 2 species which enhance the survival and reproduction of each other. In reality, the term “Symbiosis” is classically defined as the “Long-term living together of unlike organisms”. Symbiosis encompasses an entire continuum of relationships from mutualism to parasitism.

As animals evolve and adapt to each other’s presence, their relationships can shift along the symbiotic continuum, even turning enemies into allies.

This animation explores the symbiotic relationships between a variety of organisms including squirrels and oak trees, opossums and ticks, and your own relationship with bacteria in your gut!

Our understanding of the evolution of symbiosis is helping researchers discover how parasites spread and what can be done to make them less harmful to their hosts.

After watching this animation, check out Jon Perry’s “Deep Dive” video on his second YouTube channel Stated Casually to learn more. There he goes over the research that this animation was based on in much greater detail.

Contributors

Our videos benefit from guidance and advice provided by experts in science and education. This animation is the result of collaboration between the following scientists, educators, and our team of creatives.

Team
  • Jon Perry
  • Anthony Danzl
  • Jordan Collver
Advisors
  • Johana Revel, PhD

Sources

Squirrels Vs Trees: Evolutionary Arms Race
Ticks and Opossums
Cholera Evolve Toward Commensalism

Transcript