Friendships in Nature: Stronger than Ever!
Colourful ribbons to tie on the wrists,
Sent out to childhood buddies who you really missed,
Come, let’s celebrate a camaraderie so dear,
Tis’ the day to remember buddies, coz Friendship day is here!
Friendship, a lovely give and take relationship, one that lets you be your true you, follies and all! Humans are social animals and having a friend circle is an intricate part of our social lives. But did you know that animals and birds too have their own social life, in their own very way? Sure, they may not have heart-to-heart conversations, or who knows, they may and we just do not understand it! We have often seen the friendly banter of elephants, expressing their emotions in a very expressive way. In fact, many of the forlorn looking animals that wander about alone too have a quirk of friendship within them. Some may be friends within the species, and some may have that distinctly exploratory nature, forging bonds with those outside their kin!
Mutualism can be attributed as a kind of friendship, if we look at it closely. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship where
both parties stand to gain from each other. Here is a presenting some such examples depicting exceptional and strong bonds, based on mutualism. Who knows, they may be stronger than the best buddies we think we humans are!
- Chital and Treepie: If you are the jungle-visitor types you would have seen the occasional India Treepie bird perched upon a chital deer’s head, picking at its fur and nose! What a way to spend the day, picking at another being’s nose! But look closer and you will see a close association at work. The Treepie is in reality eating off the ticks from the chital’s body, getting a free meal from its best friend. And the deer in return, is getting a free body clean-up, to keep its coat glowing with a lovely sheen, spots and all! Indeed, a symbiotic association—friends with benefits, can we say?
- Crocodiles and plovers: You would think those supposedly gory water beasts would have no regard for any living being at all. But haven’t we all seen that raging boss sometime take a U-turn and be super sweet? This is a similar case of shared understanding, but in which both the participants gain benefit. The crocodile enjoys a bask in the sun with its jaws wide open. The plover gathers the courage to get between its teeth and pick away at the pieces of meat that’s stuck on. Now that’s enjoying an effortless and free meal, but surely, this meal calls for some great guts on the part of the plover! And the croc gets a dental clean-up for free!
- Figs and Wasps: Nature’s friendships are not limited to animals alone, even plants and trees partake in sharing the joy of sharing. Take the case of the fig and the wasp. Each fig tree species is pollinated by a special species of wasp, as if they are friends made for life. The fig fruit is an inverted flower, which means it needs to be pollinated internally. So who forms a friendship and helps the fig- it’s the daring wasp! The fig provides the safe environment for the wasp pupa to mature. The female wasps seeks motherhood bliss in the male fig fruit of her kind. She enters into the fruit, breaking off her wings and antenna in the process, and makes it her home with no escape. She lays her eggs and perishes in the process, unable to escape without her wings. The male wasps fertilize the female offspring, who then break away and carry the pollen to other figs, aiding pollination. The wasp thus uses the fig fruit as a nest whereas the tree uses these insects as pollinators for propagating its kind! In the process, the female wasps lose their lives- literally a case of friendships for “life”! But both species as a whole survive the race!
Mutualism is the hallmark of successful survival tactics in nature. It is all about creating mutually beneficial synergies, to make life easier on this planet! Agreed, the human concept of friendship is based more on selflessness and “giving”, but it doesn’t hurt to be inspired from nature, and give and take a little too!
Did You Know?
International Friendship Day was first proposed and held in 1958 in Paraguay!
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