Within in the womb (Elasmo Research 2017). A number

Within Earth’s living segments, its biosphere,
exists a multitude of ecological interactions through the close contact animals
share with one another. The interactions occur within the affected organisms’
environment, the surrounding conditions that the organism lives and operates
within. The study of ecology seeks to uncover the relationships that animals
share which allows for the diversity of live that exists on Earth today, and
study of the ecosystem allows for a closer look at the interactions within
populations in a community. In nature, a community consists of a group of
dependent organisms all from different species that grow and survive with one
another. An organism’s habitat is the section within the environment where it
lives, and its niche describes the roll the organism plays in said environment.
There are a multitude of examples of all five types of ecological interactions,
competition, predation, parasitism, mutualism, and commensalism, throughout
nature.

Competition is a major ecological interaction,
where organisms tend to compete for survival due to a number of reasons.
Usually, organisms compete due to a lack of food resources. Known as
intraspecific competition, the goal is to reduce the prey’s population and
instead ensure sustainability and survival for the predator. Interspecific
competition takes place between individuals of different species. Some species
seek to compete over the same living space, like two species of sea snails: Siphonaria lessonia and Fissurella crassa. Although both species
find homes in the crevices of sea caves, the larger of the two snails, Fissurella crassa, force their smaller neighbors to find different homes. This
forced removal from their shelter negatively affects the species, causing them
to reside in more inhospitable environments (Sherwood 2017). Humans exhibit an
example of interspecific competition through the need for natural resources.
For example, humans compete with other animals over fish. Fish, a major food
source around the world for both humans and animals, is a very valuable
resource for both, and both have thus competed for fish through commercial
fishing and hunting (Wandrei 2017).

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Predation is an ecological interaction where
one organism acts as a predator, thus capturing and feeding on a member of
another species, the prey (Biology-Online 2017). Sharks exhibit an extreme form
of intraspecific competition, whereby they resort to intrauterine cannibalism
as a means of survival. Through this method, the largest and strongest embryos
of sharks act as predators and tend to consume their lesser-developed prey
embryos. Dubbed “adelphophagy,” or “eating one’s brother,” embryos compete for
survival while still in the womb (Elasmo Research 2017). A number of animals
have preyed on humans for hundreds of thousands of years and still continue to
do so today. Among the most lethal predators to humans is the tiger, accounting
for approximately 85 humans deaths per year. A potent example of tigers preying
on humans was in 1907, where the Champawat Bengal tiger killed over 400 people
in Nepal and India before being shot (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural
History 2017).

Through parasitism, a parasitic species invades
and consumes the resources and nutrients of its host, benefitting at the
expense of its host without actually killing it. Intercellular parasites
inhabit spaces within the host’s body while intracellular parasites inhabit
cells in the body. In animals, parasitism occurs between the tapeworm and pig,
for example. A segmented flatworm, the tapeworm attaches itself to the inside
of the pig’s intestines, depriving the pig of essential nutrients by consuming
part of its partly digested food (Bar-Yam 2011). Malaria is the result of a
protozoan from the genus Plasmodium
which infects humans through the bite of the anopheline mosquito. The protozoan
is parasitic in the human as it consumes the nutrients of the human while
infecting the human with malaria (Britannica 2018).

Mutualism is another ecological interaction,
where two organisms of different species depend on one another for protection,
nutrients, and other functions required for survival. Both mutualistic animals
tend to live within close proximity to one another (Biology-Online 2017). In
animals, the rhinoceros shares a mutualistic relationship with the oxpecker, a
species of bird. The oxpecker lands on the rhino and eats ticks and other outer
parasites off of the animal, thus benefitting the rhinoceros by preventing
parasitic infections and implantations. The oxpecker benefits because it finds
a food source through consumption of these pests (Bar-Yam 2011). Humans and
probiotic bacteria possess a mutualistic relationship. Probiotics are live bacterial
cultures found in the human gastrointestinal tract. They destroy and consume
many dangerous and potentially disease-causing bacteria in the human digestive
system, thus benefitting humans by preventing disease. The probiotics benefit
as they are provided with food for survival in the harmful bacterial invaders,
and they are given a warm, humid, suitable environment for them to germinate
and prosper (Perez et al. 2007).

In nature, commensalism occurs where animals
from two different species form a relationship where one organism benefits and
the other is neither positively nor negatively affected. Sharks and the remora,
from the family Echineidae, form a relationship of commensalism. The remora
rides attached to the shark and has evolved an ovular, flat sucking disk in
order to keep itself on the shark. The remora then feeds on the remnants and
leftovers of the shark’s foods. The remora benefits as it is easily moved
around to its food source and finds one due to the shark’s leftover meals, and
the shark is unaffected by its presence (Britannica 2017). Human commensalism
is present with dust mites. From birth until death, humans possess many dust
mites on the skin which consume dead skin cells, amoeba, and food particles
from the human body. The human is unaffected by the dust mite, yet the dust
mite benefits as it finds a home on the human body as well as nourishment for
the particles it consumes on the body (The Gale Group 2002).

Life on
Earth is exceedingly diverse, and this diversity can be found on every corner
of the biosphere, from the depths of the ocean, to the plains of the savannahs,
to up high in the sky. Through the study of ecology and ecological
interactions, these animals can be better documented and understood by
researchers. Not only does this documentation provide an enlightening
understanding of life on Earth, it also allows conservationists to successfully
prevent the destruction of life on Earth. Species on Earth are in danger due to
human activity, and knowledge of the surrounding nature can help prevent
future, permanent mistakes.