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9 Examples of Animal Relationships

Animal relationships describe the complex web of connections and interactions that exist between two or more animal species in an ecosystem. These relationships can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the type of interaction. They play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems and the survival of many species. In this article, we will explore nine different examples of animal relationships.

Animal relationships

From competition for resources to mutualistic partnerships, animal relationships have a profound impact on the survival and success of species in their environment. Understanding the different types of animal relationships is critical for gaining insight into how ecosystems function, and how they may be affected by changes in the environment or the loss of species.

By exploring the fascinating world of animal relationships, we can deepen our understanding of the natural world and appreciate the beauty and complexity of life on Earth.

9 examples of animal relationships

1. Predator-Prey Relationship

The predator-prey relationship is one of the most common animal relationships. Predators are animals that hunt and kill other animals for food, while prey are animals that are hunted and killed. An example of this relationship is the lion and the gazelle, where the lion is the predator, while the gazelle is the prey or food item.

The population size of both predator and prey influences one another. For example, more lions would decrease the population size of gazelles rapidly due to more predators to feed. Whereas a small population of gazelles would reduce the population of lions due to limited food resources.

2. Mutualism

Rhino lying on the grass and oxpecker birds
Rhino lying on the grass and oxpecker birds | image by Harvey Barrison via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Mutualism is a relationship between two species where both species benefit from the interaction. An example of mutualism is the relationship between the oxpecker bird and the rhinoceros.

The oxpecker bird feeds on the ticks and other parasites that live on the rhinoceros which may cause health issues or become irritable to the rhinoceros. By having the oxpecker bird around, the rhinoceros gets rid of the parasites, while in turn, the oxpecker bird is provided with a great source of food.

3. Commensalism

Tiger shark with remoras underwater
Tiger shark with remoras underwater

Commensalism is a relationship between two species where one species benefits from the interaction, and the other species is neither harmed nor helped. A well-known example of commensalism is the relationship between the remora fish and the shark. The remora fish attaches itself to the shark and feeds on the scraps of food left over from the shark’s meals.

The remora fish also benefit by being dragged around by the sharks, saving energy. The shark is not harmed or helped by the remora fish, and therefore tolerate their attachment.

4. Parasitism

Ticks hanging on a gopher tortoise
Ticks hanging on a gopher tortoise | image by Andrea Westmoreland via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Parasitism is a relationship between two species where one species benefits, and the other species is harmed. Ticks are a great example of parasites which form parasitic relationships with several other species. Ticks feed on the blood of animal hosts, which can lead to disease and infection.

For example, infected blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans by biting them. Some ticks are adapted to feed on very specific host species. The gopher tortoise tick is named so due to its special parasitic relationship with gopher tortoises in the southeastern United States.

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5. Intraspecific competition

Male Northern Cardinal perched on a tree branch
Male Northern Cardinal perched on a tree branch | image by Andy Morffew via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Intraspecific competition is a relationship between two individuals of the same species where both compete for the same resources, such as mates, food and water. An example of intraspecific competition can be seen in the northern cardinal. Male northern cardinals are highly vocal and territorial and will chase away other male competitors from breeding areas to increase their chance of mating with a nearby female.

6. Interspecific competition

Dense forest of hardwoods and hemlock saplings
Dense forest of hardwoods and hemlock saplings | image by Nicholas_T via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Interspecific competition is the same competition for valuable resources as shown in the intraspecific competition example, but occurs between two individuals of different species. Both types of competition are common in nature. An example of interspecific competition is between plants in a dense forest.

Different plant species compete for several resources at once, including light, water, nutrients and space. Faster growing species, with deep root systems are able to outcompete many nearby species for these resources.

7. Mimicry

Brown vine snake perfect mimicry
Brown vine snake perfect mimicry | image by Pavel Kirillov via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Mimicry is a relationship where one species resembles another species for protective purposes. More specifically, Batesian mimicry is used when a harmless species has evolved visual adaptations from a species with biological weapons to capture prey and deter predators. Predators learn to avoid the species with the visual marking, and in turn, will avoid the mimic as well.

Mimicry can often be seen in snake species, where venomous snakes are the model of mimic species. For example, several non-venomous snake species in the Americas now have coloration and patterning which closely resemble coral snake species, a highly venomous snake.

8. Symbiosis

Clown fish guarding its sea anemone
Clown fish guarding its sea anemone | image by R/DV/RS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Symbiosis is a relationship between two species where they live together and both species benefit, and is very similar to mutualism. An example of symbiosis is the relationship between clownfish and sea anemones.

The clownfish live among the sea anemones and provide them with nutrients from unwanted food scraps and protection from some fish predators. In turn, the sea anemones provide the clownfish with refuge that protects them from predators and a safe place to lay their eggs.

9. Amensalism

Zebras grazing
Zebras grazing

Amensalism is a relationship where one species is negatively affected, while the other is not affected at all. One example of this is the relationship between grazing animals (such as goats or cattle) that feed on grass that is inhabited by insects.

Specifically, the grazing animal will feed on the grass and may unknowingly consume insects on the grass. This is obviously deadly for these insects, but has no effect on the grazing animal.