6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (2023)

6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (1)

The links below may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see mydisclaimerhere.

Because it is the month where we celebrate NationalMake a Friend Day, Valentine’s day and Single Awareness day, it is only fitting we talk about relationships! In this article I will share 6 fascinating mutualism examples in the ocean. Continue reading to find out the different symbiotic relationships that occur under the sea.

The ocean is home to many organisms- from tiny fishes to giant whales, from colorful sponges and corals to crusty crustaceans. And let’s not forget the cute and cuddly or the creepy crawlies. The ocean is filled with the wonderful and weird, and the diversity is simply astounding.

Sometimes it makes you wonder, with millions of creatures inhabiting the same space, how are they able to survive and thrive? Well, it’s because animals, like us humans, also form relationships.

These interactions create a balance within the ocean ecosystem. And while it does create balance, sometimes these relationships among species are not equally advantageous to the species involved.

Other species might be gaining from the relationship while others are unaffected or even get harmed. Some interactions will be mutually beneficial while other relationships may be more valuable to only one party.

And, yes, we are still talking about the ocean and not your relationships with your exes or current partners!

These living or cohabitation arrangements formed among species are collectively known as symbiosis.

What are the different kinds of symbiotic relationships in the ocean?

Symbiosis is defined as the interaction between members of two differentspecies living in a close physical association. These associations can vary from being beneficial to both parties to being unfavorable or harmful to the other.

Symbiotic relationships in the ocean can be classified further as parasitism, commensalism, and mutualism.

Parasitism in the ocean

Parasitism relationships happen when one species benefits and the other is harmed. In this symbiotic relationship, the species can either be the parasite or the host. The parasite species, even if it is smaller in size takes advantage of the host species. In a parasitic relationship, the host is harmed and does not receive any benefits from its parasite.

While parasitism plays an integral part of the ocean ecosystem, parasitic infestations can increase at alarming rates and can be bad for the ocean too. Parasites can kill some of their hosts or make them vulnerable to other species. This affects the population and causes an imbalance in the ecosystem.

In this educational video, you can see how the isopod parasites are removed from mud shrimp species in order to help them.

In layman’s terms, parasitism is when someone sucks the life out of you. They’re pesky little buggers that latch on to you causing you more harm than good. These parasites need to be plucked out and removed from your life!

I am sure you can think of one or two persons whom you’ve had a parasitic relationship with. My advice, similar to the video, remove those parasites and throw them in the compost bin!

Commensalism relationships in the ocean

Commensalism relationships happen when one species benefits by living with, on, or in another species, known as the host, and the host neither benefits nor is harmed in the partnership.

One example of commensalism in the ocean is the remora and the sea turtle. You can often find a remora swimming close to a sea turtle. They do this to get food from the sea turtle as it feeds. The turtle is never bothered with the remoras swimming around it and the remoras can happily feed on any food that falls off the turtle’s mouth.

Another commensalism relationship you can find in the ocean is the barnacles on whales. The barnacle, by attaching itself to whales, gets a free ride to plankton-rich waters where it feasts on a buffet of abundant microorganisms. The whales are not harmed by the barnacles on their skin, and I doubt if they really care that the barnacles are there.

My take is that commensalism is basically the euphemism for a free-loading son-of-a-b*tch. No one is really harmed but one is obviously benefiting more from being in the relationship.

Is it bad? Well, the marine species don’t seem to mind, so why should you? That’s just the way the world works, I suppose?


Mutualistic relationships in the oceans are when both species living closely together benefit equally from their relationship. Marine creatures in a mutualistic relationship rely on each other for food, protection, or other life functions.

There are several examples of mutualism in the ocean many of which involves species you wouldn’t even think would get together. They are able to live harmoniously and in fact, they probably prefer to be together because of the many benefits they get by being together.

Just imagine, two completely different species existing and living together in a way that benefits them both.

Isn’t that nice?

#RelationshipGoals if you ask me!

What are mutualism examples in the ocean?

I find these mutualistic relationships the most fascinating among the symbiotic relationships in the ocean. It seems fair and just and no one is being harmed or taken advantage of.

While scuba diving, I get a thrill every time I see these marine animals interacting with each other. Watching these unlikely couples work together and exist harmoniously, I think that’s kinda sweet.

These unexpected pairings are kinda cool, so I thought it would be interesting to share with you 6 mutualism examples in the ocean that we humans can learn from.

1. Clownfish and Anemone Mutualistic Relationship

A popular example of mutualism in the ocean is the relationship between sea anemones and clownfishes. Also known as Nemo for many divers and snorkelers, you can often find these cute fishes in sea anemones. Despite the stinging tentacles of the anemone, clownfishes or anemonefishes are able to live within the anemone.

6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (2)

The anemone protects the clownfish and also leaves it food scraps for the clownfish to consume. In return, the clownfish rids the anemone of parasites and even offers the anemone nutrients in to form of fish poo!

Some clownfish are also feisty and territorial and can even ward away predators closing in on the anemone.

I’ve personally had clownfishes come close to me as if to scare me away. It is always amusing to watch when they do this.

2. Porcelain Crab and Anemone Mutualism Relationship

The sea anemone seems to be a sought-after partner under the sea. As it turns out, porcelain crabs also enjoy a mutualistic relationship with sea anemones. When you see an anemone with no clownfishes in it, take a closer look and you just might find a porcelain crab hiding among its tentacles.

Similar to the clownfish, porcelain crabs use the anemone as their home. The porcelain crab is protected from any predator since most sea creatures will get stung by the anemone. In return, the porcelain crab’s meal scraps are also enjoyed by the anemone.

3. Pom-pom Crab and Anemone Mutualism in the Ocean

Another mutualism example in the ocean is the pom-pom crabs which got its name from holding anemones on its claws! Yes, they do look like tiny cheerleaders under the sea.

They’re also known as boxer crabs because these tiny crustaceans can be found walking around with anemones on their pincers like boxing gloves. The boxer crab is able to ward predators away by delivering a stinging punch from the anemone wrapped around its claws.

In return, the anemone is taken for a free ride around the reef to feed wherever the crab goes. Any food leftovers from the pom-pom crab are enjoyed by the sea anemone.

4. Shrimp and Goby Symbiotic Relationship

The shrimp and goby fish relationship is another mutualism example in the ocean. This odd-looking pair lives within the same burrow on the sandy ocean bottom.

The shrimp creates a safe habitat for itself and the goby to live in by digging and maintaining burrows. However, the shrimp has difficulty seeing and detecting predators so its goby partners would flick its tail to warn the shrimp of any danger. With watchful eyes, the goby protects the shrimp by warning it while the shrimp clears gravel from their burrow.

5. Decorator Crab and Sea Sponge Symbiosis

Another example of mutualism in the ocean is the decorator crab which uses sponges to decorate its shell. The decorator crab got its name for its propensity of sticking sedentary animals and plants to its bodies.

Using other marine organisms like sea sponges, decorator crabs are able tocamouflage themselves and avoid being caught by predators. In return, the sea sponge is able to expose itself to other feeding opportunities based on the movements of the crab.

6. Corals and Zooxanthellae Symbiosis

Another example of mutualism in the ocean is that between corals and zooxanthellae which is the photosynthetic algae that live within most types of coral polyps.

Zooxanthellae provide corals with food resulting from photosynthesis and in turn, the coral polyps provide the tiny plant cells with a protected environment and nutrients to carry out photosynthesis. The corals produce carbon dioxide and water as byproducts, and these byproducts are used by the zooxanthellae for photosynthesis.

The symbiosis of these two species is one of the most important mutualistic relationships in the ocean. When temperatures of the ocean rise, it can stress out the corals and release the algae from its protective home. If this occurs, we witness coral bleaching.

6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (3)

In some rare cases, the corals can recover from the bleaching but if they don’t the corals can eventually die. One cannot simply survive without the other.

We can learn a thing or two about relationships from the ocean. From tiny to tall, colorful to crusty, cute to creepy, we live in a world with so much diversity. We experience the wonderful and the weird every day of our lives.

Along the way, we meet all kinds of people and form relationships. If you look closely enough, we are no different from the creatures in the sea. Or rather they are not so different from us.

There might be someone sucking the life from you. Or perhaps you could be the one leaching off someone else. Some partnerships or friendships are not created equal with some having benefits and others having none.

If you’re lucky enough while exploring this big blue world, you might also find your unlikely pair- the Nemo to your anemone, the pompom on your crab, or the goby to your shrimp. And that would just be #RelationshipGoals

Did you love learning about ocean marine life? Read my article on the 100 Most Popular Marine Life in the Philippines!

Pin this for later!

6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (4)
6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (5)

What are mutualism examples in the ocean you know that I failed to mention? Can you think of someone with whom you have a mutualistic relationship? Leave a comment below!

The links above may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see mydisclaimerhere.

6 Fascinating Mutualism Examples In The Ocean That Are #RelationshipGoals (6)

Ara Juan

Ara is the founder of DiverBliss.com and PhilippineDives.com. She is a PADI Rescue Diver with a goal to dive in all the best places around the Philippines.

You may also enjoy:


What are some examples of mutualism in the ocean? ›

If we were in the warm waters of the Pacific or Indian Oceans, we'd likely spot an excellent example of mutualism: the relationship between clownfish and sea anemones. In a mutualistic relationship, both species benefit. Sea anemones live attached to the surface of coral reefs.

What is mutualism in the ocean? ›

Mutualism is when two organisms of different species exist in a relationship where both individuals benefit from each other and is a type of symbiotic relationship. One well-known mutualistic relationship in the ocean is the one between Corals and their zooxanthellae.

What animals have a mutualism relationship in the ocean? ›

These are just a few of the many mutualistic relationships in our ocean. Others include gobies and mantis shrimp; manta rays and remoras; hermit crabs and sea anemones; groupers with octopuses and moray eels; and the famous sea anemone and clownfish.

What are the 6 symbiotic relationships? ›

Symbiosis: Commensialism, Mutualism, Parasitism, Neutralism, Competition & Predation.

What is mutualism give an 4 example? ›

The partnership between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and leguminous plants is one example. In addition, cows possess rumen bacteria that live in the digestive tract and help digest the plants the cow consumes. Associations between tree roots and certain fungi are often mutualistic (see mycorrhiza).

What is mutualism in sharks? ›

Mutualism is the relationship between two organisms where both organisms get benefitted from one another. The relationship between remora fish and shark can be considered as mutualism. Remora attaches itself to the shark, to travel different parts of the sea by floating with the shark.

What are 5 examples of parasitism in the ocean? ›

Some examples of common marine parasites are copepods, isopods, monogeneans, digeneans, nematodes, cestodes, and acanthocephalans. Viruses and bacteria are also considered to be parasites.

What are the 2 types of mutualism? ›

There are two main types of mutualistic relationships: obligate mutualism and facultative mutualism.

What fish has a mutualism relationship with a shrimp? ›

The Randall's pistol shrimp has a symbiotic relationship, known as mutualism, with a fish called the Randall's prawn goby (Amblyeleotris randalli). Mutualism is where two species are dependent on each other and both benefit from the relationship.

Is coral a mutualism? ›

The corals and these special cells have a mutualistic relationship. The coral provides the zooxanthellae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the zooxanthellae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes.

Do dolphins have a mutualistic relationship? ›

The dolphins drive shoals of mullet towards the human fisherman and then give a signal. The fisherman throw their nets which catch the fish and drive some of them back into the mouths of waiting dolphins. This mutualistic behavior benefits both the humans and the dolphins.

What are 6 examples of commensalism? ›

Examples of Commensalism

Tree frogs use plants as protection. Golden jackals, once they have been expelled from a pack, will trail a tiger to feed on the remains of its kills. Goby fish live on other sea animals, changing color to blend in with the host, thus gaining protection from predators.

What are symbiotic relationships 5 examples? ›

Mutualism: both organisms benefit. Commensalism: one organism benefits while the other is neither helped nor harmed. Amensalism: neither organism benefits, but one is harmed. Parasitism: the parasitic organism benefits at the expense of the host. Competition: neither organism benefits.

What are the 3 different symbiotic relationships found in the ocean? ›

These effects of high competition can cause species to turn to 1 of 3 different symbiotic relationships for survival. They are called mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. In the famous Disney movie Finding Nemo, Nemo and his father, Marlin, live in a sea anemone.

What is Mutualism in Class 12 example? ›

The term mutualist is used to indicate the small partner and the host are the other partners present in the Mutualism. For example, Ants live and feed on the nectar of acacia trees. Here ants are the mutualist and acacia trees is the host. The acacia tree provides home and food for the ants.

What is the most common Mutualism? ›

Pollination Mutualisms

Plant-pollinator interactions are good examples of mutualistic interactions because nearly three-quarters of all extant flowering plants (angiosperms) receive pollination services from animals (National Research Council 2007).

How is a fish an example of Mutualism? ›

Mutualism describes the interaction between two or more species where each species has a net benefit. Salmon and lumpfish are an example of mutualism. The lumpfish eats sea lice (gets fed!), and the salmon gets its parasites removed!

What are 3 examples of Mutualism in the rainforest? ›

Monarch butterflies travel in large groups to stay safe. Certain insects such as ants and termites rely on each other and work as a team to build mounds where the group will live, or hunt together to find food. Capuchin monkeys love to eat the flowers from certain trees. When they eat, pollen sticks to them.

What are 5 examples of Commensalism? ›

Commensalism is a type of relationship between two organisms in which one benefits from the another without causing any harm to it.
  • Orchids Growing On Branches.
  • Sharks And Remora/Sucker Fish.
  • Whales And Barnacles.
  • Tree frog on plants.
  • Burdock Seeds On Animals.

What is an example of Mutualism with humans? ›

Humans also have a mutualistic relationship with certain strains of Escherichia coli, another bacterium found in the gut. E. coli relies on intestinal contents for nutrients, and humans derive certain vitamins from E. coli, particularly vitamin K, which is required for the formation of blood clotting factors.

Is a crocodile a mutualism? ›

Indeed, they have what is known as a symbiotic relationship, also known as Mutualism. As you know, Crocodiles are predators and eat meat.

What animal cleans whales? ›

Remoras feed on the leavings of their hosts' meals or, in some instances, act as cleaners by eating the external parasites of their transporters. Seven of the eight species of remoras are classified as species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Why is clownfish mutualism? ›

Anemones and clownfish have a symbiotic relationship known as “mutualism,” in which each species benefits the other. Able to withstand an anemone's stinging tentacles, the clownfish use the anemones for protection from predators.

What are 10 example of parasitism? ›

In Humans. Over 100 different types of organisms can parasitize humans including fungi, leeches, lice, ticks, mites, tapeworms, protozoa, viruses, and helminths.

What are 10 parasites examples? ›

Helminths (worm parasites)
  • Roundworm. Ascariasis, or a roundworm infection, does not usually cause symptoms, but the worm may be visible in feces. ...
  • Hookworm. These can cause intestinal disease. ...
  • Beef and pork tapeworms. ...
  • Toxocariasis. ...
  • Whipworm. ...
  • Elephantiasis lymphatic filariasis.
2 Mar 2022

What are six examples of parasitism? ›

The organisms that parasitize humans include fungi, leeches, lice, viruses, protozoa, tapeworm, etc. Few organisms such as Helminthes live inside the intestine of the host and causes several infectious diseases, such as jaundice, malnutrition, diarrhoea, etc. All the infections are caused by viruses and bacteria.

What is Mutualism Class 9? ›

Mutualism is the relationship between two organisms where both organisms are benefited in terms of food, shelter and substratum for attachment.

What is a mutualism relationship in a coral reef? ›

Mutualism, or a mutualistic relationship, by definition, is when two organisms of different species work together so that each is benefiting from the relationship. Obligate mutualism is when neither organism can live without one another.

What are 3 symbiotic relationships in a coral reef? ›

There are three types of symbiotic relationship: mutualism (where both organisms benefit), commensalism (where one species benefits, but there is no benefit or harm to the other species), and parasitism (where one organism benefits tot he detriment of the other). There are many examples of symbiosis on coral reefs.

Is coral and fish mutualism? ›

There are strong mutual dependencies between the reef-building corals and reef-inhabiting fishes, with many fish species depending on corals for food and habitat, while corals depend on the grazing by certain fishes for reproductive success. Even the spread of coral diseases may be mitigated by fishes.

What is the relationship between coral and fish? ›

Because of the diversity of life found in the habitats created by corals, reefs are often called the "rainforests of the sea." About 25% of the ocean's fish depend on healthy coral reefs. Fishes and other organisms shelter, find food, reproduce, and rear their young in the many nooks and crannies formed by corals.

Is coral a plant or? ›

Corals are animals

And unlike plants, corals do not make their own food. Corals are in fact animals. The branch or mound that we often call “a coral” is actually made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps. A coral polyp is an invertebrate that can be no bigger than a pinhead to up to a foot in diameter.

Is coral and algae a mutualistic relationship? ›

For millennia, zooxanthellae have been in a mutualistic relationship with corals. The tiny algae live inside the coral and feed it sugars through photosynthesis. In exchange for the meal plan, the algae get free rent and protection from the dangers of the open ocean.

What is a Turtles mutualism? ›

Sometimes, small groups of fish cluster around green turtles pecking at their shells. This is an example of a symbiotic relationship (a long standing relationship between two species). When both species benefit: the turtle gets its shell cleaned and the fish gets a meal, this special relationship is called mutualism.

Do dolphins make love? ›

Common bottlenose dolphins have sex frequently — very likely multiple times in a day. Copulation lasts only a few seconds, but social sex, which is used to maintain social bonds, can last much longer, happen more frequently and involve myriad heterosexual and homosexual pairings of dolphins and their body parts.

Do dolphins flirt? ›

Researchers from the University of Western Australia seem to have uncovered the reason behind unusual behaviour by male humpback dolphins – flirting!

What is an example of commensalism in the ocean? ›

The relationship between Clownfish and anemones is a well-known example of commensalism. Clownfish live in the stinging tentacles of sea anemones. They are coated in mucous, which protects them from the anemone's stinging nematocysts.

What is an example of a Commensalistic relationship? ›

The simplest example of commensalism is a bird making a nest in a tree. The tree provides shelter and protection to the bird without getting significantly harmed or affected by the bird. Another typical example is the cattle egrets (birds) that feed upon the insects stirred up by the feeding cattle.

What are the 3 types of commensalism? ›

Summary: Commensalism Definition Biology

The three main types of commensalism are inquilinism, metabiosis, and phoresy. Although it can be difficult to prove an organism truly isn't impacted by its relationship with another organism, there are numerous commensalism examples in nature.

What is symbiotic relationship class 7 give one example? ›

A symbiotic relationship means a mutually interdependent relationship. Two different kinds of organisms live together for their mutual benefit. For example, algae, which is an autotroph, and fungus, which is a saprophyte, live together in lichen.

What are the 4 symbiotic relationships? ›

Types of symbiotic relationships includes mutualism, parasitism, predation and commensalism.

What is an example of symbiotic relationship class 7? ›

Symbiosis – Types

In mutualism, both the involved organisms benefit from each other. Example – Coral reefs are nothing but a mutualistic association between coral organisms and various types of algae residing inside them.

What are the 3 types of symbiotic relationships and give an example for each? ›

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit. Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits while the other species is not affected. Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species (the parasite) benefits while the other species (the host) is harmed.

What is the relationship between sea cucumber and shrimp? ›

To add on, some examples of a commensalism relationship are the Imperial shrimp and Sea cucumber. The relationship between these two species is how the shrimp rides the sea cucumber. The shrimp rides on the sea cucumber for feeding transportation.

What is an example of mutualism with sharks? ›

Another example of mutualism can be seen with the Leopard shark and remora fish that swim next to it, sometimes attached to the body. The remoras swim very close to the sharks, feeding off scraps of food dropped by the shark and also gaining some protection from predators.

What is mutualism in coral reefs? ›

The corals and these special cells have a mutualistic relationship. The coral provides the zooxanthellae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the zooxanthellae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes.

How is a fish an example of mutualism? ›

Mutualism describes the interaction between two or more species where each species has a net benefit. Salmon and lumpfish are an example of mutualism. The lumpfish eats sea lice (gets fed!), and the salmon gets its parasites removed!

How is fish and coral mutualism? ›

There are strong mutual dependencies between the reef-building corals and reef-inhabiting fishes, with many fish species depending on corals for food and habitat, while corals depend on the grazing by certain fishes for reproductive success. Even the spread of coral diseases may be mitigated by fishes.

What are the 4 benefits of coral reefs? ›

Coral reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and offer opportunities for recreation. They are also are a source of food and new medicines. Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection.

How is coral an example of mutualism? ›

Another important mutualistic relationship is the one between coral and herbivorous fish. Coral provides shelter and food to herbivorous fish in return for protection from natural enemies, such as seaweeds.

What are 5 examples of symbiosis? ›

6 Surprising Symbiotic Relationships
  • Can you imagine how your life might be without your best friend? ...
  • Sharks and Pilot Fish.
  • Coyote and Badger.
  • Hermit Crabs and Sea Anemones.
  • Colombian Lesserblack Tarantula and Dotted Humming Frog.
  • Drongos and Meerkats.
23 Aug 2018

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Greg Kuvalis

Last Updated: 02/02/2023

Views: 5829

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Greg Kuvalis

Birthday: 1996-12-20

Address: 53157 Trantow Inlet, Townemouth, FL 92564-0267

Phone: +68218650356656

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Knitting, Amateur radio, Skiing, Running, Mountain biking, Slacklining, Electronics

Introduction: My name is Greg Kuvalis, I am a witty, spotless, beautiful, charming, delightful, thankful, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.