Use the key below to help understand which relationships are in the "Other" category on a Species Page. To full understand the relationship, make sure to read both Species Pages of the two organisms.
A = Alelopathy Alelopathy is when one plant releases chemicals which cause certain other plants around it to grow slowly.
C = Commensalism A relationship between two organisms where one species is helped, but the other is unaffected. Example: The Northern Hog Sucker is a fish that turns over stones looking for food. Smaller fish follow the sucker to grab whatever it misses.
D = Dispersal This could be a type of Mutualism or Commensalism. Dispersal means "to spread." Sometimes, after they eat part of a plant, animals help the plant by spreading its seeds. They do the same for fungi, except they spread spores instead of seeds. Example 1: A Blue Jay eats acorns from oak trees. Sometimes it flies off with an acorn and buries it so it can eat it later. If the bird forgets about it, the acorn can grow into a new tree. Example 2: A Red Fox eats some wild grapes. Later, the fox poops out some seeds, which grow into new grape vines. Example 3: A fly lands on a mushroom and eats some of it. While it eats, some of the mushroom's spores stick to the fly. When the fly dies, the spores are in a new place and can grow into new mushrooms. Example 4 (Commensalism): Water birds, such as ducks or herons, carry mud on their feet from one body of water to another. Tiny organisms in the mud, such as algae or amoebas, get transported in the mud to a new place. The birds don't get helped, so it's not Mutualism.
EC = Especially Competitive Competition is already represented in the "Associations with Other Plants" catergory on Species Pages of plants. However, some plants are more competitive than usual with certain other plants. This key could also mean two animals, or other organisms, which are "especially competitive," either for food or shelter.
FA = Fungus/Animal Relationship Fungi and animals help each other in several ways (see Dispersal above), but one common way is some animals help fungi grow on trees when they damage them. The opposite can occur when a fungus helps an animal start a new home after it has damaged a tree. Example 1: A Pileated Woodpecker damages tree bark by hammering for insects. A fungus then starts growing in the wound of the tree. Example 2: A fungus damages a tree by spreading beneath the bark. This allows Black Carpenter Ants to burrow in the damaged bark and make tunnels for shelter.
FP = Food Provider Some plants and animals help provide food for an animal without being the actual source of food. Example 1: Milkweed plants are a food source for many different insects. Predators, such as mantids and spiders, hang out on milkweeds, so they can ambush the insects. The predators are helped by the milkweed. Somtimes this can be a mutualistic relationship (see Mutualism below) if the predator is killing an insect that harms the plant. Other times the predator hurts the plant by killing a pollinating insect (see Pollination below). Example 2: The American Dog Tick uses mammals as food. To get to these animals, they often need to climb plants. The plants help the tick get its food. This is an example of Commensalism (see above). Example 3: Beavers build dams which attract fish and other small animals. Predators, such as herons, eagles, and turtles are helped since the beavers gave them a good place to find food. This is also Commensalism.
H = Host A host is one member of a Parasitic Relationship. In this type of relationship, one organism is helped (the parasite), and one is harmed (the host). Usually the parasite lives on the host.
Mi = Mimic Mimicry is when one animal is helped because its appearance is so much like another animal. Usually, the animal it looks like is poisonous or dangerous to predators. Example: An Eastern Black Swallowtail is not poisonous, but since it looks so much like a Pipevine Swallowtail, which is poisonous, most predators leave both butterflies alone.
Mu = Mutualism Mutualism is when two organisms help each other. There are many different types of mutualism, some of which are in this key (see Dispersal, Mycorrhizal Relationship and Pollination). "Mu" will be used to show any other type of Mutualism. Example 1: Tiny insects called aphids make a liquid called "honeydew." Ants eat the honeydew, so they protect the aphids from predators. Both species help each other. Example 2: Some bird species feed or roost together. Even though they may be competitive (eat same foods), they help each other by sounding the alarm when a predator is nearby. This way they can concentrate more on finding food.
My = Mycorrhizal Relationship This is a type of Mutualism. A fungus uses tiny root-like hairs, called "hyphae," to penetrate into tree roots. The fungus takes nutrients from the tree, but it also helps the tree by giving nutrients back. Some plants can't survive without their mycorrhizal partner.
Pa = Parasite A parasite is one member of a Parasitic Relationship. In this type of relationship, one organism is helped (the parasite), and one is harmed (the host). Usually the parasite lives on the host.
Po = Pollination Pollination is a type of Mutualism. With pollination, an animal (usually an insect) eats nectar or pollen from the flower of a plant. As it feeds, pollen sticks to its body. When the insect goes to the next flower, some pollen accidentally drops off in the new flower. Pollination is what lets plants turn flowers into fruits and seeds, so they can grow new plants.
SP = Shelter Provider On each Species Page there are already categories that show when animals use plants as shelter. However, sometimes animals use other animals to get shelter. Example 1: A Woodchuck digs a burrow for a home. Later, when the woodchuck is gone, a Striped Skunk moves in. The skunk used another animal to help get its shelter. Example 2: A Ruby-throated Humming bird uses spider silk from a web to help build its nest. The bird used something made by another animal. Example 3: A Green Hydra attaches itself to a mussel shell. The hydra doesn't hurt the mussel, it just uses it for shelter.