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On most occasions, the interaction between organisms within the community can be fit within one of three categories: competition, symbiosis, and predation. Interestingly, on some occasions, the groups which are visibly predisposed to a certain relation (e.g. predatory relation of carnivores to fitting herbivores) display signs of other, less intuitive ones. One such example is the symbiosis between gelada monkeys and Ethiopian wolves.
An article by Luntz (2015) reveals possible cooperation between these species. The observations indicate that geladas, whose youth may serve as formidable prey for solitary Ethiopian wolves, do not afraid of them and display no signs of agitation upon visual contact. Thus, wolves are able to come close enough to the monkey herd without raising the alarm. However, dogs, who are in the same predatory category with Ethiopian wolves, trigger the retreat of the heard instantly upon sighting.
The reason for such unusual carelessness is most likely in mutual benefits gained by both sides of the relationships. One of the common prey of wolves are rodents who commonly inhabit the grazing locations of gelada monkeys. It turns out that on most occasions, wolves are more successful in hunting rodents in the proximity of geladas (approximately 65 percent success rate in the presence of monkeys versus an estimated 25 percent in their absence) (Luntz, 2015). While no clear reason for such results is established, it is likely that the presence of monkeys somehow impedes the ability of rodents to spot a threat. Alternatively, activities of geladas may prompt rodents to reveal themselves, raising the chances of predators to spot their prey.
The monkeys also have a share of their benefits. Specifically, the rodents are in competition with geladas for food and territory. Therefore, by controlling their population Ethiopian wolves improve the chances of survival for the gelada herd.
As in all symbiotic relationships, each side sacrifices something. For the wolves, the tradeoff is evident. They sacrifice the opportunity to capture young geladas by restricting themselves from predatory activity towards monkeys. In exchange, they secure the herd’s presence which, in turn, increases their chances of survival. It is worth noting that geladas are cautious and clever, which makes them a difficult prey. Therefore, wolves sacrifice an opportunity to gain instability.
For the monkeys, the tradeoff is less evident. By allowing their potential enemies closer to the herd, they introduce the potential risk that wolves will occasionally seize their youth. However, by establishing symbiotic relations, they also raise chances of cooperation and strengthen the treaty which will result in minimizing the threat in the future. In a sense, the gelada population can sacrifice a few of their representatives to pursue a long-run goal of eliminating a natural threat (Pearson Learning Solutions, 2014).
The primary resource in these relations is the rodent population. When it becomes scarce, two outcomes are possible. If the symbiosis is established firmly enough, the wolves, who would become more dependent on monkeys, will seek closer cooperation (e.g. wander deeper into the herd) to find food. If, on the other hand, the bonding is still weak and the roles of participants not firmly determined, the wolves would likely break the treaty and start hunting for geladas, terminating the partnership.
Galateanu, E., & Avasilcai, S. (2014). Symbiosis process in business ecosystem. In C. Carausu (Ed.), Advanced Materials Research (Vol. 1036, pp. 1066-1071). Pfaffikon, Switzerland: Trans Tech Publications.
Luntz, S. (2015). Symbiotic partnership between monkeys and wolves discovered. Web.
Pearson Learning Solutions. (2014). Economic concepts: Production and cost. Web.