Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (2023)


Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (1)

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Table of contents

Mutualism is the interaction of individuals of different species that have a positive (beneficial) impact on the reproduction and per capita survival of the interacting populations. It is widely recognized as essential to the patterns and processes within ecosystems.

For more information on reciprocity, see the fact file below, or you can download our 30-page reciprocity worksheet pack for use in class or at home.

Important information and dates


  • Observations that can be associated with mutualism go back many centuries to natural history descriptions of interactions between speciesHerodotus,Aristotle, Cicero, Pliny and others, but the term "mutualism" first appeared in Pierre van Beneden's 1876 book Les Commensaux et Les Parasites. Beneden stated, "In many species there is mutual aid, and service is rewarded by good behavior or in kind."
  • Charles Darwin is one of the first to pay close attention to mutualism, particularly pollination. Mutualistic interactions accDarwin, posed a serious challenge to his theory: Individual animals are not expected to provide services or rewards solely for the benefit of animals of another species, since such traits cannot have evolved through natural selection.
  • Mutualism was not studied conceptually until the mid-1930s. Mutualism was either unstable, leading to unlimited population growth, or stable, leading to brittle interaction with minimal impact on population dynamics.
  • The study of mutualism expanded significantly in the 1980s. Mutualism is not necessarily unstable according to biologically realistic theory. The main conclusion of these models is that some elements must constrain the interaction's positive feedback on a population's growth rate for mutualism to be stable.


  • Each species involved in mutualism should benefit from the interaction, which usually comes at a cost. However, mutuals do not always receive the same benefits or bear the same costs.
  • While each partner's behavior helps the other species in some way, neither species acts altruistically. Instead, each species pursues its own selfish interests, and any advantage gained by the mutualist is an unintended consequence of the interaction.
  • Transport refers to the movement of gametes, such as the dispersal of pollen by pollinators or the dispersal of seeds by fruit eaters (an animal that lives primarily on raw fruit). Protective advantages include defending or protecting a mutualist from natural threats (e.g., predators, herbivores, parasites, parasitoids) or from the abiotic environment. Nutritional resources can also be offered as a benefit, ranging from nutrient and carbon exchanges in plant-mycorrhizal relationships to food molecules.
  • It has recently been recognized that there are costs associated with mutual interactions. The costs of mutualism come from providing resources and services to the partners. Prizes include investments in structures and substances to reward mutualists (such as nectar), as well as the energy and time spent acquiring the perks.
  • Examples of mutualism specifying species/partners, benefits and costs:
(Video) SYMBIOSIS: Feeding relationship explained with examples.


  • symbiotisch reciprocityIt refers to a mutually beneficial interaction between organisms of different species. It is a symbiotic interaction where two different species interact and may depend entirely on each other for their existence. Most symbiotic mutualisms involve the exchange of energy from one species to another, whether autotrophic or heterotrophic. A variety of benefits can be provided in exchange for (a) degradation of compounds and ease of digestion, (b) delivery or concentration of nutrients, (c) environmental stability, and (d) bioluminescence.
  • non-symbiotic mutualismIt is a mode of interaction in which organisms of different species work in close proximity but do not affect each other negatively or positively. For example, robins and squirrels feast on the same tree, and neither provides food to the other or interacts directly.


  • forced mutualismrefers to a mutual connection that has evolved to the point where the two species are completely interdependent. In this scenario, neither partner can live independently.
  • Some non-symbiotic mutualisms, such as those developed by fungus-growing ants, are also obligatory in the sense that neither the ant nor theMushroomcan exist without the other. Some of the greatest examples of coevolution can be seen in obligatory mutualism.
  • Inoptional mutualism, Partners can coexist without being dependent on each other. On the other hand, they develop a fuzzy relationship that includes a variety of species (e.g. bees and plants).
  • In trophic mutualism, partners specialize in complementary ways of getting nutrients and energy from each other, such as cows and bacteria. Cows cannot digest the cellulose of the plant. Bacteria found in cows help digest plant cellulose. Conversely, bacteria receive food and a warm environment, both of which are necessary for their development and growth.
  • Indispersiver Mutualismus,The species involved assist in the movement of pollen grains from one flower to another in exchange for nectar, or assist in the dispersal of seeds to suitable habitats in exchange for nourishment of the seed-bearing fruit.
  • defensive mutualismincludes species in which a mutual partner obtains food or shelter to provide defense against herbivores, predators, or parasites for its mutual partner.


  • Humans interact with other species through reciprocity, so gut flora is essential for proper digestion. Head lice infestations may have been helpful to humans by stimulating an immune response that helps reduce the threat of deadly body lice infections.
  • Some mutual relationships exist between humans, domestic animals, and plants. Arable varieties of maize (maize), for example, are used by humans as food, but cannot reproduce naturally because the leaf sheath does not burst open and the seed head (the “cob”) is not broken open to disperse the seeds. organic. Pollinating insects make up almost a third of our diet.
  • Humans use the oxygen produced by plants and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants use carbon dioxide to produce the oxygen that humans need.


  • aphids and ants– Several species of aphids have been found to form mutual relationships with ants, which feed on honeydew by “milking” the aphids with their antennae. In return, certain species of ants protect aphids from parasites and predators.
  • coralline algae and zooxanthellae– The bright colors of reef-building corals are maintained by zooxanthellae algae with which they have an interrelated relationship. The coral starts out as a tiny, free-swimming larva and eventually attaches itself to a solid surface, turning into a polyp. Corals absorb zooxanthellae from their environment during their development. The coral provides zooxanthellae with shelter and food for photosynthesis. In contrast, zooxanthellae produce synthesized sugars, which the coral feeds on, and oxygen as a by-product.
  • Spider crab and seaweed– Spider crabs live in shallow parts of the seabed and greenish-brown algae grow on their backs, blending into their surroundings and making them unnoticeable to predators. The algae get a safe shelter and the crab is camouflaged.
  • maggot choppers and large mammals– Ticks and blood-sucking flies are among the parasites that birds ingest on the body of a mammal. This helps keep mammalian parasite loads in check while providing an easy meal for birds. Like a variety of other species, maggot choppers will sound the alarm and warn their hosts of approaching danger. Humans have seen birds help hosts like rhinos (which are almost blind) avoid humans.

Mutualism Worksheets

This fantastic pack contains everything you need to know about mutualism in 30 detailed pages. are ready to useThe worksheets are perfect for teaching children about reciprocity, the interaction of different species that has a positive impact on interacting populations.

Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (3)
Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (4)
Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (5)
Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (6)
Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (7)
Mutualism Worksheets & Facts | Definition, Examples, Benefits (8)

The download includes the following worksheets

  • Facts on Mutualism
  • Are you mutual?
  • tell me what
  • Descriptive Words
  • Go back in time
  • search and count
  • but not right away
  • costs and benefits
  • smart and hardworking
  • to tell story
  • six thinking hats

Frequently Asked Questions

What is reciprocity?

Mutualism is a type of relationship between living beings in which both species benefit from their interaction with each other. This can be done in many different ways, e.g. B. by one species protecting the other or one species providing food for the other.

What is an example of mutualism?

A well-known example of mutualism is the relationship between bees and flowers. Bees collect nectar from flowers to make honey, and in doing so, pollen from the flowers sticks to the bees. When bees visit other flowers, some of the pollen is shed, fertilizing the new flowers and allowing them to produce seeds. This is how the bees get food and the flowers are pollinated.

Are there different types of reciprocity?

Yes, there are different types of mutualism. Mutualism can exist between different types of organisms, such as plants and animals, or between different types of the same type of organism, such as e.g. B. different types of bacteria occur.

Is reciprocity always beneficial to both species?

In most cases, mutualism is beneficial to both species. However, there are some instances when the relationship can become unbalanced and one species can cause harm to the other. This is not mutualism and is called parasitism.

How is mutualism different from symbiosis?

Mutualism and symbiosis are similar terms, they describe relationships between different organisms, but symbiosis is a more general term that includes mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism, which are different types of relationships. Mutualism is a specific type of symbiosis where both species benefit from their interaction with each other.

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(Video) Symbiosis: Mutualism, Commensalism, and Parasitism

Use with any curriculum

These worksheets have been specifically designed to be used with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is or edit them with Google Slides to make them more specific to your students' abilities and curriculum standards.


1. Ecological Relationships-Competition- Predator and Prey- Symbiosis
(MooMooMath and Science)
2. Ecological Relationships (Science 7: Quarter 2, Week 7)
(Think Talker)
3. Symbiosis: Mutualism
(Odyssey Earth)
4. Mangroves
(NG Science)
5. Symbiotic Relationships
(Cook In The Classroom)
6. Ecological Relationships (Predation, Commensalism, Mutualism, Parasitism, Competition) | Biology


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