Learn about symbiotic relationships and how spotted salamander eggs rely on green algae
It’s February-the month where millions of people celebrate Valentine’s Day. I am thinking about animals and the relationships they have with each other. A mutually beneficial relationship between two species is called a mutualism symbiotic relationship.
In our region, there are many species that have symbiotic relationships, many of which occur right under our noses. Spotted salamanders are one of many species of salamanders that live in Western North Carolina. These amphibians lay their clear, gelatinous eggs in clusters by the hundreds. Spotted salamanders prefer to lay their eggs in small bodies of water such as puddles or even tire treads in the dirt. Because the eggs are so openly exposed to predators, the salamander eggs have a mutualism symbiotic relationship with a species of green algae. The algae raise the oxygen levels of the eggs, remove waste, and provide camouflage. In turn, waste from the embryos creates a nitrogen-rich environment in which the algae thrive.
Another mutually beneficial relationship between two species is that of squirrels and oak trees. The oak trees provide shelter and food (acorns) for the squirrels, and the squirrels unknowingly help plant new oak trees. Squirrels bury acorns (among other nuts from other tree species) to store for food before winter. Come wintertime, the squirrel is unable to remember where they buried every single acorn. The forgotten acorns then have a chance to grow into oak trees.
A common and important relationship that happens all around us is the one between pollinators and plants. Animals like bees, hummingbirds and butterflies depend on pollen and nectar from plants as a food source, and these plants depend on pollinators to reproduce. They mutually benefit from each other. And humans definitely depend on pollinators. Without pollinators, it is said that all terrestrial beings would not be able to survive.
Remember to show your love for the environment and appreciate all the benefits we get from plants and animals this month.