Project Description

Symbiotic Mutualism: The Example of the Rhino and Oxpecker

I don’t know about you, but for the last 15 months (or however long it’s been) I haven’t been able to get a deep, satisfying breath in.

Have you ever had a bruised/broken rib or a sharp pain in your side and you can’t take that big, fulfilling breath that we all take for granted?  You just get those shallow little teasers.  That’s how I’ve felt mentally with all of the election shenanigans.  It’s been “us” pitted against “them”, or “them” against “us”, or “them” against “those other folks”.  Most talk of issues and policy seems to imply from the get-go that there is a fine-lined division of folks ready to pitchfork and pillory each other.

“So, what I want to know is…why can’t we just be more like the rhino and oxpecker?”

Or the remora fish and whale shark? Or the clown fish and sea anemone?

“Spicy Mike, you’re too random” you must be saying.  Yes, I am.  However, there is a point.

These organisms are all participating in a relationship called symbiotic mutualism.  They live in close quarters and are of different species (or different phylum, class, order or even family in some cases!), yet manage to GET ALONG AND DO NICE THINGS FOR EACH OTHER!!! The oxpecker hangs about the rhino and feeds on the ticks that might otherwise drive the rhino crazy while keeping themselves nicely satiated.  The clown fish sticks close by the sea anemone and eats invertebrates that might otherwise be harmful and then poops out great stuff the other can use.  Lastly, the remora gets a ride on the whale shark while eating parasites off its host.

Like these examples, the microbes in our kombucha culture live in a symbiotic world.  The yeast and the bacteria both reside and flourish in an ecosystem that would not exist if not for their tolerance of and even dependence on each other.  One would not be able to do what it does and keep the culture moving forward if not for the other.

So, after you’ve caught your breath, take a cue from the natural world and realize that there is a benefit in finding a common cause no matter your makeup.  Take a look around and reevaluate those relationships that may, at a glance, look parasitic. They could in fact be, and probably are, symbiotic in some way, shape, or form.

Give a couple of shoutouts to those truly symbiotic relationships in your life.   Then, cultivate some more.  Many, many more.