Relationships (all of them)

From the time my oldest son could understand, I began to teach him that all living things on Earth exist within three primary forms of symbiotic relationships.

I explained the ‘mutualistic,’ in which both organisms benefit from each each other. I explained ‘commensalism,’ where one benefits while the other does not but is not harmed.

Clownfish feed on small invertebrates that harm the sea anemone, while the fish are protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging cells, to which the clownfish is immune. Photo credit: richardminick (Flickr)

Finally I explained there are also ‘parasites,’ organisms that benefit while the other is harmed. Here I added, parasites break down further into two types; one that eventually kills its host, and one that relies on the host’s survival.

I taught him that with all living things on Earth, these are the three ways in which they relate to each other. This too, I told him, applies to man. Because modern man’s tendency is toward the parasitic, I taught him that we should always strive to cultivate mutualistic relationships with others – man and animals alike, and the whole of the earth, and live in a way that benefits ourselves as well as others, and avoid doing harm to either.

I suspect he, as well as all of us, will need to be reminded of this often, and I hope he teaches this to his children too.


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