How to “train” good cleaners

How are mutualisms maintained when there is so much incentive for partners to cheat?? Do species interactions shift from cooperative to antagonistic or vise versa? If so, how? I’m very fascinated by these questions, as many ecologists are. In my previous post, I wrote about crayfish-worm symbiosis and how their interactions could shift from mutualism to parasitism, depending on the worm abundance. Today, I’ll talk about the work by Gingins … Continue reading

Plants fungus and insects OH MY!

Post by Zoe Getman-Pickering One of the first lessons you learn in ecology (be it a class or research) is that the natural world is infinitely complex with countless direct and indirect interactions, and it is one we ecologist repeatedly learn through our careers. I was reminded of this lesson reading the paper, “Mycorrhizal abundance affects the expression of plant resistance traits and herbivore performance” by Rachel Vannette and Mark Hunter. … Continue reading

Ants aiding ants on Acacia

A regular theme on this blog (here, here, here, etc…) is how fascinated all of our contributors are by the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity. Personally, I am really into some of these such as positive interactions between species, such as mutualisms (like the legume-rhizobium mutualism I study) and facilitative effects between species. In some systems, negative interactions between species can result in indirect facilitation of other species by … Continue reading

Too much of a good thing

I was at the annual ESA meeting in Minneapolis last week and had an opportunity to attend lots of interesting talks. One of my favorites was about crayfish and their symbiotic crayfish worm (check out the link here and here for abstracts). The talk by Petipa stood out to me because he used a classic succession framework to predict community assemblage of symbiotic worm species on crayfish host. Plus, his … Continue reading

Parasitism Threatens Mutualism

Background: The world is a complicated place. Organisms typically interact with one another simultaneously and the strength of interactions can depend on what’s happening in the environment. As a number of organisms within a community increases, indirect interactions also increase exponentially (Abrahams 1992). As ecologists, we’re fascinated by the beauty of this complex world while we struggle to understand and predict how nature really works. Studying a pair-wise interaction is … Continue reading

Trade-offs are important for promoting diversity, even for microbes

Background In 2005, Science Magazine published a special issue exploring 125 big unanswered questions in science in celebration of their 125th anniversary. One of the questions that I keep thinking about (as many biologists do, I’m sure), is this question of, “what determines species diversity?“. I know: This is an overwhelmingly big and important question in biology. So I decided to focus on just one hypothesis addressing this question. That … Continue reading

How precise is a fig tree’s sanction ability?

Background Mutualism is a relationship between two organisms or species in which both benefit from the association. Flowering plants and pollinator interactions are a classic example of mutualism. Mutualisms are ubiquitous in nature and biologists have been fascinated by them for a long time.  For example, how does mutualism evolve? What maintains mutualism? Theory predicts that mutualism is susceptible to breakdown (May 1981) and vulnerable to anthropogenic environmental change (Six … Continue reading