We couldn't have figs without wasps. Here's how mutualism works.
A form of symbiosis, mutualism is an interaction between two individuals that benefits both—and it’s widespread across the animal kingdom.
It’s well known that pollinators give us our favorite foods, from strawberries to sunflower seeds. But less familiar is what drives pollination: Mutualism.
It’s an interaction between two individuals of the same or different species that benefits both. Mutualism is a form of symbiosis, which is a close and persistent relationship between two organisms of different species, but not necessarily one in which they help each other. Other types of symbiosis include parasitism, commensalism, and amensalism.
When pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, drink nectar from flowers, they also pick up pollen—the plant’s sperm cells—and spread the powdery substance to other plants, helping the plant to reproduce. The pollinator gets a meal, and the plant procreates.