Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Animal Relationships: Symbiosis

When two animals team up, they may form a beneficial partnership called symbiosis. In symbiosis, the two animals provide something, which the other cannot, for each other. It could be food, protection or eliminating parasites. In many cases, neither can survive without the other. This other animal is in a special relationship with your animal teacher. Therefore that animal is also one of your animal teachers.

For example, oxpeckers ride on a rhino’s back. For allowing the oxpecker to eat insects off his back, the rhino gets and early warning system. These two disparate species work together to help each other. They are a unit to be studied as one animal teacher.

Other odd partnerships between disparate species occur as well. Known as “the crocodile bird,” the Egyptian plover runs along the crocodile’s back picking off ticks. In addition, the plover eats leeches from crocodile’s teeth. Because the cleaning of teeth is so important to the crocodile, she keeps her mouth open for the plover. In their partnership, the crocodile insures the plover a meal, and the plover keeps the crocodile healthy. The two live in harmony.

A well-known partnership is the clownfish and sea anemone. Even though the anemone is poisonous to other fish, it does not affect the clownfish. Living exclusively inside the sea anemone, the clownfish attack other fish that nibble at the sea anemone’s tentacles. In return for sea anemone’s protection from predators, the clownfish keeps it healthy. The two provide food for each other – fish for the anemone and parasites for the clownfish.

Another partnership that the sea anemone has is with the hermit crab. A sea anemone will attach itself to the discarded shell of a mollusk. At the same time, a hermit will chose to live in the shell. Together, the two travel around the sea bed. The anemone catches food for the crab, and the crab offers transportation in return. In many cases, when a hermit crab exchanges shells, it will transfer the anemone.

If you find your animal teacher is in a symbiotic relationship, then both are your teachers. Since they act as one, study them both – singly and together. They will offer you clues in your life if you are in a symbiotic relationship.

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Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  


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