It serves as nature’s dental floss by removing morsels of food from between the African crocodile’s teeth … and eating them. It’s a win-win solution for both animals in a relationship scientists call mutualism, a type of symbiosis. Symbiosis is a close and often long-term relationship and interaction between two different species. Mutualism is when two or more unlikely organisms live together in harmony for the benefit of all involved.
Here are a few more examples.
- Ostriches have excellent eyesight but a poor sense of smelling or hearing so they tend to hang out with zebras which have the opposite problem, thereby they can alert each other to danger.
- Osprey and oxpeckers are two other species of birds that hitch a ride on large mammals and enjoy a buffet of fleas, lice, ticks, and other parasites.
- Clownfish eat small organisms that could harm a sea anemone while the anemone’s stinging tentacles protect the clownfish from predators.
- One type of mostly-blind shrimp digs burrows in the sand to share with the goby fish that stands watch and warns of any oncoming predators.
- Many marine animals are “serviced” by so-called cleaner fish that get a free meal by consuming parasites and dead skin which in turn keeps the “client fish” healthy.
- Bumble bees collect nectar from flowers and distribute pollen in the process.
- Animals breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
- Even humans benefit from bacteria that thrive in our intestines (the “good flora”) and help us digest food.
I’m reminded of a verse from Ecclesiastes. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV)
Creation declares that we were made to work together.
What about you? Have you ever had an unlikely friend? How did you complement each other?