Interspecific Relationships – Concept, types and examples

We explain what interspecific relationships are, what their main characteristics are and examples of these relationships.

Interspecific relationships - cat and mouse
Interspecific relationships occur between different species of the same ecosystem.

What are interspecific relationships?

Interspecific relationships are called the different types of interaction that usually take place between two or more individuals of different species. This type of relationship occurs within the framework of a specific ecosystem and generally has to do with the satisfaction of the nutritional or other needs of at least one of the individuals involved.

As the name implies, these types of relationships occur between subjects of different species but the same ecosystem, that is, they share habitat. In this they differ from relations intraspecific, which occur between individuals of the same species.

Interspecific relationships can occur between individuals of very different nature, even belonging to different kingdoms of life, such as plants and animals, for example. And its classification will depend on the nature of the link established between the two species: if it is beneficial for both, for only one or if it causes harm to either of them.


Interspecific relationships - clownfish
Clownfish inhabit sea anemones to be safe from predators.

This type of relationship are beneficial to one of the two individuals involved (called diner), without said benefit causing any type of harm or discomfort to the other organism. This is well explained in the name of the term, which comes from the Latin cum mes, that is, “share the table.”

An example of commensalism it is noticeable among lions and hyenas or other scavenger species of Africa: the latter wait for the former to finish feeding on the hunt, and then take advantage of the abandoned remains of the prey. Another example is that of the clown fish that lives among sea anemones, keeping itself safe from predators thanks to the toxic effect of their tentacles, and without causing any damage to the anemone.


Mutualism - Interspecific Relationships
Mutualisms often involve some degree of tolerance or cooperation.

Unlike commensalism, in the case of mutualism the association between the two species is mutually beneficial, being useful to the two diners. Often this implies some degree of tolerance or explicit cooperation between them.

Good examples of mutualism are: the flea and tick-based diet of birds that climb on the back of hairy animals such as cows, horses or oxen, relieving them of this plague in exchange for a constant source of food. Another good example is the respectful relationship that exists between a certain type of bulky fish and a species of small crustaceans, which enter their open mouth to feed on the remains of food between their teeth, cleaning them and receiving free food in return.


Symbiosis - lichens - interspecific relationships
In lichens, the fungus provides structure and keeps the algae moist and nourished.

Is about a very close degree of interspecies cooperationSo much so that both lead a life together in intimate association, to the point of often being indiscernible from each other. This cooperation generally has benefits for both (or at least one) of the species.

An example of a symbiotic relationship is the one that occurs between a fungus and an alga to form what we commonly call lichens: the fungus provides structure and keeps the algae moist and nourished, which in turn synthesizes carbohydrates that feed it.


Predation - interspecific relationships
The predator hunts its prey for its meat.

Predation is a type of interspecific relationship that causes damage (death) to one of the two species involved, since the other feeds on it, destroying and consuming its tissues. The consuming species is called predator or predatory, already consumed is known as dam.

Large and ferocious predators exist in nature, like lions, snakes, or praying mantises, each one in its respective ecosystem. They feed on gazelles, mice or insects, respectively, hunting them and consuming their meat.

Follow on: Predation


Parasites - interspecific relationships
Parasitic species can infect the intestines of humans and other animals.

This interspecific relationship also causes harm to one of the two members involved, while benefiting the other. It is similar in that sense to predation, except that the damage is not massive and immediate, but slower and more prolonged in time, to the extent that the parasitic species consumes fluids or tissues from the parasitized one, which suffers the consequences.

Thus, we can cite as examples of this: all species of protozoa, nematodes and bacteria that can infect the intestines of humans and other similar animals (endoparasites, inside the body), causing diarrhea, inability to assimilate nutrients and other symptoms of disease, while they reproduce and feed within their body. An example is ectoparasites (outside the body) such as fleas, lice or ticks, which adhere to the skin and suck the blood of parasitized beings.


Interspecific relationships - competition
Competition occurs when animals compete for territory.

The competition occurs when two species benefit from the same niche, feeding on its resources or obtaining some kind of well-being, but they cannot do it at the same time or in a peaceful way, so they must fight for access to the resource and somehow dissuade the other species from looking for some other source of food.

This is what happens, for example, when animals compete for territory, trying to control the available resources of his and to monopolize the space, the available prey, the sunlight, etc. This is the case of two plants in front of a limited amount of sunlight, or of two species of jungle cats struggling to establish a hunting ground in which the others do not enter.