Tundra biomes exist at the northern and southern limits of habitable territory on the earth. Symbiotic relationships among organisms in the tundra can take many forms, from mutually beneficial relationships to relationships where one organism is harmed. Parasitism and a mutually beneficial relationship involving lichen are two prevalent forms of symbiosis in the tundra.
A biome is a living community characterized by its living and nonliving components, including climate, geography, and the types of plants and animals living in the biome. Biomes are composed of similar ecosystems and communities, which involve the relationships among the species living within them. There are eight distinct biomes on Earth.
Tundra is a type of biome characterized by cold winters, cool summers and low precipitation. Permafrost exists even during the summer and moss, lichens, caribou and migratory birds are the dominant organisms in the tundra. Polar bears live in northern tundra biomes as do foxes and wolves.
According to John R. Meyer at North Carolina State University, symbiosis is an ecological relationship in which two or more organisms "live together." The relationship can benefit all organisms involved, or it can benefit only one or a few of the organisms involved in the symbiosis while the others receive no benefit or may even be harmed. (See reference 3)
One of the most prevalent examples of a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship in the tundra involves lichen. Lichen appears moss-like, but it actually represents a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga. The fungus is "fed" sugars by the photosynthetic alga and the alga receives protection from the fungus. (See reference 2)
Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which only one partner benefits. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, liver tapeworm cysts are common parasites involved in a symbiosis with moose, caribou and wolves. (See resource 2)
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Billy Lindblom
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