Bronstein, Judith L. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
Last reviewed:April 2021
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- Benefits of mutualisms
- Relation to symbiosis
- Possible coevolution
- Common features of mutualisms
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An ecological interaction between two species that benefits both of them. Within populations, individuals that interact with mutualists experience higher success than those that do not. Hence, behaving mutualistically is advantageous to the individual; it does not require any concern for the well-being of the partner. At one time, mutualisms were thought to be rare curiosities of nature. However, it is now believed that every species is involved in one or more mutualistic interactions (Fig. 1). Moreover, mutualisms are thought to lie at the root of phenomena as diverse as the origin of the eukaryotic cell, the diversification of flowering plants, and the pattern of elevated species diversity in tropical forests. See also: Coevolution between flowering plants and insect pollinators; Ecological communities; Ecology; Population ecology
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