"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." - Katharine Hepburn
Question #91260 posted on 04/01/2019 5:24 a.m.

Dear Babalugats,

I recently heard that there are several species that evolved specifically to live with/alongside ants. Are there any other species who have shaped evolution like this? Are there species that live specifically alongside dolphins, or gorillas, or pigeons?

-Rainbow connection


Dear Rainbow Connection,

It would appear that Babalugats somehow lost track of this question forever. Our apologies for letting it go so long overdue only to not give you a real answer, but at this point it looks like our best option to let you know that you should just re-ask this question at some point.

-The Editors

posted on 04/14/2019 9:47 p.m.
Dear RC,

I'm not Babalugats, but I do know what you're talking about: it's called coevolution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coevolution), and in the most general sense of the word it's actually one of the basic drivers of evolution - for instance, cheetahs evolve to hunt gazelle and gazelle evolve to evade cheetahs in a perpetual evolutionary arms race. What you're probably thinking of, though, is mutualism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutualism_(biology)), where two or more species evolve together in a mutually beneficial way. The most common examples are flowers that attract pollinators with nectar, plants that spread their seeds by embedding them in fruit which animals eat and spread after digestion, and animals such as remoras or oxpeckers that eat parasites off of other animals. These are all known as service-resource relationships, where one species provides a resource for another which, as it uses the resource, provides a service for the first. In rare cases, though, some pairs of species develop a service-service relationship, where each species actively helps the other. This includes anemones that protect anemone fish from predators (which can't tolerate an anemone's stings) in exchange for the anemone fish driving off butterflyfish (which have evolved specifically to eat anemones), as well as plants which have evolved structures that provide homes for ants in exchange for the ants driving off predators and trimming back surrounding vegetation. Humans have mutualistic relationships, too. We can't survive without gut bacteria and gut bacteria can't survive without us. We also have a mutualistic relationship with crops like corn and wheat - domesticated plants form the base of our diet, and we provide for the reproduction and cultivation of the plants. Same with domestic animals like cats and dogs - we provide for their food, safety, and reproduction, and they give us companionship and help with things like hunting or pest control.