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Animal Themes
Animal and Biomes Basics Theme Unit
Symbiosis



Symbiosis
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.49

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    Clownfish, coating, tenant, landlord, commensalism, parasite-cleaning, parasitism, unharmed, win-win, partnership, interaction, disks, relationship, benefits, definition, mutualism


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Symbiosis   

1     In the wonderful world of nature, some animals live or work together with other living things. Some animals love to be partners with other animal species, with plants, and with microorganisms. We have a special name for such partnerships. We call them "symbiosis." That literally means "living together".
 
2     Do both species in a symbiotic relationship benefit? Well, that question is open for debate. Some scientists restrict the meaning of symbiosis to a "win-win" situation for both partners. Others disagree. Using a broader definition, we are going to explore the three types of symbiotic partnerships.
 
3     When two species have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship, we call it "mutualism." This type of symbiosis benefits both partners. To understand mutualism better, let's examine the interaction between clown fish and anemones. Most fish stay away from an anemone for fear of touching its poisonous tentacles. But clown fish have a special coating on their skin that protects them from getting stung. (This trick does not work for all anemones though. Clown fish can only have symbiotic relationships with 10 of the 1,000 different anemone species in the world.) Clownfish can swim carefree and unharmed among their host's deadly tentacles. They know very well that their predators do not dare to come near them. Plus, clown fish get to eat the leftover bits of food discarded by their landlord. What does the anemone get in return for offering clown fish a safe haven? Well, it kills and feeds on fish that are eyeing its tenant! Aside from that, clown fish pay their rent by cleaning up food scraps and dead anemone tentacles.

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Animal Themes
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Animal and Biomes Basics Theme Unit
             Animal and Biomes Basics Theme Unit


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