9- Exploring Symbiotic Relationships CP Biology

Name:__________________________ Period:______Date:____________

Symbiotic Relationships
Are long-term interactions between two different species. In general, there are 3 main types:

1. Mutualism:

2. Commensalism:

3. Parasitism:
How do we know what relationship we are looking at?

Although it might seem obvious, it can actually be difficult to determine exactly what type of
symbiotic relationship we are looking at. To truly be sure, ecologists must often use numerical
information to determine what kind of relationship they are looking at.

Here, you will take on the role of ecologists. You will analyze and graph numerical data to make a
conclusion about what kind of symbiotic relationship, if any, we are looking at in two real world cases.

Directions:

1. Read the background information presented about the relationship between the two species.
2. Analyze the numerical data.
3. Answer the questions and make a conclusion about what type of symbiotic relationship you are
looking at.

Case #1- Fungal Infections of Grass Plants
Background:
A certain species of grasses appears to be infected by fungi, as
shown in the picture to the right. The fungal cells penetrate and
invade the plant cells.

In this case, we already know that the fungi benefits by receiving
sugar from the host plant species. However, we still DO NOT
know if the fungi helps or harms the host grass.

Focus: Are these fungi harmful parasites of the grass? Or, are
they in a mutualistic relationship where both organisms benefit? Fungal Endophyte

3. Hypothesize: Do you think the fungi harms or benefits the grass plant? Why?

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Data: You studied 200 grass plants; 100 had a fungal infection and 100 had no fungal infection. Your
results are summarized below:

Presence of Fungi Number of Plants Number of Plants Number of Plants
with Leaves Eaten Infected with Insect Surviving After One
by Insects Eggs Year

No Fungal Infection 79 51 27

Fungal Infection 43 37 61

4. Are more plant leaves eaten in plants with or without fungal infections?

5. Are more plants infected by insect eggs in plants with or without fungal infections?

6. Do plants that have a fungal infection survive more or less than plants that do not have a fungal
infection?

7. Overall, do you think the fungal infection is helping or harming the plant? Provide evidence to
support your claim.

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Case #2- Cowbirds and Prairie Warblers
Background
These two species of birds occupy similar habitats in the wild.
Prairie warblers are small birds which make cup shaped nests on low
branches of trees. Cowbirds, on the other hand, do not make
their own nests. Instead, they place their eggs in the nest of
A cowbird resting on a branch
other bird species, like the warblers.

Once the cowbirds lay their eggs in other nests, they do not take care of the eggs or new hatchlings.
Instead, the prairie warblers take care of all eggs and feed young birds.

Focus: Does the presence of cowbird eggs harm the prairie
warbler young (parasitism)? Or is there no negative effect
(commensalism)?

Data:
You performed an observational study in the natural habitat
of the birds to study the impact of cowbird egg presence on A prairie warbler in its nest
warbler nests. You studied thirty warbler nests in a given
habitat and found the following data:

Presence of Average Number of Average Number of Average Number of
Cowbird Eggs Prairie Warbler Prairie Warbler Surviving Prairie
Eggs Hatchlings Warbler Hatchlings
No Cowbird Eggs 7.2 6.1 5.9

Cowbird Eggs 5.9 4.7 3.3

8. Does the presence of cowbird eggs affect how many host hatchlings there are? How so?

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9. Do more prairie warbler hatchlings survive in nests with or without cowbird eggs?

10. Complete the bar graph of the above data in the space below. The first column is already filled in
for you as a model.

No Cowbird
Number of Eggs
Eggs or
Hatchlings
Cowbird Eggs

Average Number of Prairie Average Number of Prairie Average Number of Surviving
Warbler Eggs Warbler Hatchlings Hatchlings

11. Overall, do you think the presence of cowbird eggs is helping or harming the prairie warblers? Use
the graph and data as evidence to support your claim.

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Case #3- Midges and Mosquitoes:
Study Species: Midges, a small fly like species (M. knabi) and
mosquitoes (W. smithii)

Background Research:
Both midges and mosquitoes lay their larvae in the water-
filled leaves of a plant species known as pitcher plants. A picture of a tiny midge, an insect
similar to mosquitoes
These plants are carnivores that feed on the carcasses of
small decaying invertebrates.

The midge and mosquito larvae also feed on organic matter that
comes from these invertebrate carcasses. Generally, midge larvae
feed by chewing on larger carcass pieces, while mosquito larvae
are downstream consumers that filter feed on smaller particles and
bacteria derived from decomposing carcasses.

Focus: Are these two species competing for dead carcasses?
A pitcher plant with dead
invertebrates inside
Data:
In this case, you did two separate experiments with to
answer this question. In one case, you increased the number of mosquito larvae in a simulated pitcher
leaf to study the effect this has on midge larvae density. In the second experiment, you increased the
number of midge larvae to see if this has an effect on mosquito larvae.

Experiment 1: Effect of Mosquito Density on Midge Density

Mosquito Larvae Density (individuals/leaf) Average Midge Larvae Density
(individuals/leaf)
20 42.2
40 39.3
60 41.7

12. Looking at the numbers above, does adding more mosquito larvae seem to affect the number of
midge larvae greatly?

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Experiment Two: Effect of Midge Density on Mosquito Density

Midge Larvae Density (individuals/leaf) Average Mosquito Larvae Density
(individuals/leaf)
20 31.4
40 48.9
60 72.2

13. Here, does adding more midge larvae seem to affect the number of mosquito larvae greatly? How
so?

14. In the space below, make a LINE GRAPH showing the second set of data.

15. Propose an explanation for your findings. Why does the mosquito larvae density go up in response
to increased numbers of midges, but not the other way around)? (Look back at the description of
what they both eat)

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