Physics Spotlight  
Clownfish fight off predators of anemones that in turn provide habitats for the clownfish, an example of mutualism. But mutualistic relationships aren’t always set in stone; depending on environmental conditions, once-simpatico species can become competitors.Clownfish fight off predators of anemones that in turn provide habitats for the clownfish, an example of mutualism. But mutualistic relationships aren’t always set in stone; depending on environmental conditions, once-simpatico species can become competitors.

A mutual breakdown

Species relationships devolve from jointly beneficial to competitive in benign environments.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
August 24, 2016

Nature abounds with examples of mutualistic relationships. Think of bees pollinating flowers whose nectar nourishes the bees, or clownfish that fight off predators of anemones that in turn provide habitats for the clownfish. Each species benefits the other, and together their chances of survival are better than if they lived apart.

Now scientists at MIT have found that such mutualistic relationships aren’t always set in stone. Depending on environmental conditions, once-simpatico species can become competitors, and in extreme cases, one species can even drive the other to complete extinction.
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