Community Interactions

In communities, many species interact with each other in many different ways. Predators attack and kill prey, herbivores graze on plains full of vegetation, and bacteria help to decay dead organisms. Have you ever wondered what these interactions are called? Let's dive into the world of community interactions

Community Interactions Community Interactions

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Contents
Table of contents
    • First, we will look at the definition of community and community interactions.
    • Then, we will talk about the different types of community interactions that exist.
    • After, we will explore some examples involving community interactions.
    • Lastly, we will talk about interactions between community and ecosystem.

    What is a Community?

    Before diving into community interactions, let's define what a community is.

    In ecology, a community consists of populations of two or more different species existing within the same environment and interacting with each other. These interactions are known as interspecific, since they occur between different species, rather than the same species (which are known as intraspecific).

    These populations of different species also each occupy different portions of the environment for which they are specialized, called ecological niches.

    The number of different niches within a particular community determines its level of biodiversity. For example, a tropical rainforest has more niches and, thus, a higher level of biodiversity than communities with fewer niches, such as temperate deciduous forests and arctic tundra.

    Biodiversity is referred to as the diversity of living organisms (different species, families, orders, etc.) residing within a specific area.

    Community Interactions Definition

    Now, let's look at the definition of community interactions.

    Community interactions refer to the inter- and intraspecific interactions that occur within ecological communities.

    These interactions are vital biotic components of communities that help to drive evolution by natural selection. There are three types of community interactions that are currently recognized:

    1. Competition

    2. Predation

    3. Symbiosis

    Different Types of Community Interactions

    In order to shed more light on each of these types of community interactions, let's take a closer look at them one by one.

    Competition

    The first type of community interaction is called competition.

    Competition in communities occurs when different organisms or species vie for limited resources, such as food, territory, and water.

    Competition may occur between different species (interspecific) and between individuals of the same species (intraspecific). Interspecific competition, however, can fuel both evolution and extinction.

    Competition between two different species that are vying for the same resource often results in one species losing out, becoming marginalized, and, eventually, disappearing from the community.

    However, this competition can also fuel evolution through specialization. Rather than going extinct, the less dominant species may become more specialized in order to minimize competition and its negative consequences.

    Predation

    The second type of community interaction is predation.

    Predation occurs when a predator species consumes a prey species.

    There are two different types of predators - true predators and grazers.

    • True predators are species that kill and consume their prey. Examples of true predators include crocodilians and big cats.

    • Grazers, unlike true predators, do not typically kill their prey items. Examples of grazers include herbivores, which “graze” upon plants, as well as insects like mosquitoes, which consume the blood of their prey but do not kill them.

    Predators naturally exist at lower population densities than their prey and help to control the prey population through predation. In turn, the predator population is controlled by the abundance of prey.

    This results in both predator and prey populations fluctuating in a stable fashion. Some of these predators are considered to be keystone species, impacting the entire ecosystem.

    Keystone species is any species that has an exceptionally significant impact on the entire ecosystem in which it resides is known as a keystone species. Examples of keystone species include some big cats, such as jaguars and tigers, crocodilians, such as the saltwater and Nile crocodiles, and some herbivores, such as the beaver.

    American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are true predators and keystone species distributed throughout the southeastern United States from eastern Texas to northern North Carolina. Alligators have been found to have a significant impact on the populations of prey species, particularly the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus).

    A recent study found that the reduction of blue crabs due to alligator predation resulted in populations of some native grazer and mutualist species (snails and mussels, respectively) increasing. These cascading trophic effects are classic impacts caused by the presence of a keystone species in a community.

    Predation can also fuel evolution by natural selection through adaptation. As prey species adapt to avoid predators, individuals with traits that are more beneficial for survival will breed and those that do not will be preyed upon.

    Over time, even more adaptations may be selected for. Some examples of prey adaptations include camouflage (to avoid predation) and bright colors (to warn against predation).

    Symbiosis

    The third type of community interaction is symbiosis.

    Symbiosis occurs when an interaction between two species results in one or both species benefiting from it.

    At present, there are three different types of symbiosis recognized by scientists:

    1. Commensalism

    2. Mutualism

    3. Parasitism

    Commensalism

    Commensalism occurs when one species benefits from an interaction, while the other experiences no affect at all. A classic example of commensalism occurs between humans and bacteria. Many species of bacteria that reside inside our bodies are harmless commensals that provide no obvious benefits to us, nor do they harm us.

    Mutualism

    Mutualism occurs when both species benefit from an interaction. Going back to the previous example of humans and bacteria, many of the bacteria species present within our intestines (our microbiome) are extremely beneficial and play a crucial role in our digestive process. In return, these bacteria receive food and shelter.

    Parasitism

    Lastly, parasitism occurs when one species benefits from an interaction, while the other species is harmed. The benefitting organism is known as a parasite, while the harmed organism is the host. Examples of parasites include ticks and tapeworms.

    Community interaction examples

    Here are some more examples of how community members interact with each other.

    Competition Example

    In some portions of the Americas, both jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor) are sympatric. Both species are large feline predators (though the jaguar is the only true “big cat” of the two) that compete for many of the same resources.

    It has been suggested that, in the rainforest communities of the neotropics, pumas have become more specialized in order to avoid competition with the jaguar. In these areas, pumas tend to be much smaller and much more arboreal than they are in the temperate regions to the north and south, while the jaguars tend to be larger and more terrestrial. This is an example of competition resulting in specialization.

    Parasitism Example

    Eight different species of fish are known to be hosts for parasitic isopods. These isopods, known as tongue-eating louse (Cymothoa exigua) attach to fish tongues, rip the tongues off, and replace them. While this does not kill or seriously harm the fish, it does result in the loss of the tongue and these fish often exhibit weight loss.

    Mutualism Example

    The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is the world’s largest rodent and is native to South America. Capybaras experience a mutualist relationship with multiple bird species, including the cattle tyrant (Machetornis rixosa), which preys upon the horseflies that are attracted to the capybaras (Fig. 1).

    This relationship is mutually beneficial, as the cattle tyrant gets food, and the capybaras receive fewer horsefly bites.

    Community Interactions A capybara and a cattle tyrant in the Brazilian Pantanal. These two species have a mutualist relationship. Study SmarterFigure 1: A capybara and a cattle tyrant in the Brazilian Pantanal. These two species have a mutualist relationship. Source: Brandon Sideleau, own work

    Community and Ecosystem Interactions

    There are six levels of ecological organization. They are, in order from largest to smallest: biosphere, biome, ecosystem, community, population, and individual.

    Community Interactions The six levels of ecological organization. Study SmarterFigure 2: The six levels of ecological organization. Source: http://ecology-project.weebly.com/

    While a community consists of all populations present within a specific area, an ecosystem consists of the community (biotic component) and its surrounding environment (abiotic component). Thus, community and ecosystem interactions are interactions that involve the species present within the community and their abiotic environment. Abiotic factors, such as drought and wildfires, affect the birth and death rates of the community.

    For example, it has been found that black bears (Ursus americanus) are negatively affected by wildfires. It was found that there were much reduced numbers of black bear cubs during years of wildfire.

    Community Interactions - Key takeaways

    • Community interactions refer to the inter- and intraspecific interactions that occur within ecological communities.
    • There are three types of community interactions: competition, predation, and symbiosis.
    • Three types of symbiosis are currently recognized- commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism.
    • An ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Community Interactions

    what is the importance of community interactions to aquatic life

    There are a number of community interactions in aquatic life, including competition between species, predation, and symbiosis. An example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship is between remora fish and sharks - the remora fish is able to clear scraps and remain safe near the shark, and the shark is less likely to get parasites and is able to have its body and teeth cleaned. 

    what is community interaction

    Community interactions refer to the inter- and intraspecific interactions that occur within ecological communities. These interactions are vital biotic components of communities that help to drive evolution by natural selection. There are three types of community interactions that are currently recognized: competitionpredation, and symbiosis.

    how organisms interact in communities

    The following are the three main types of community interactions: competition, predation, and symbiosis. Competition in communities occurs when different organisms or species vie for limited resources, such as food, territory, and water. Competition may occur between different species (interspecific) and between individuals of the same species (intraspecific). Interspecific competition can fuel both evolution and extinction. Predation occurs when a predator species consumes a prey species. Symbiosis occurs when an interaction between two species results in one or both species benefiting. 

    What are the 3 types of community interactions

    There are three types of community interactions that are currently recognized: competitionpredation, and symbiosis.

    what interactions occur within communities

    There are three types of community interactions that are currently recognized: competitionpredation, and symbiosis.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What are the two types of competition?

    What is intraspecific competition?

    What is interference intraspecific competition?

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