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The symbiosis of hermit crab and anemone: mutually beneficial coexistence

In the plant and animal world, the phenomenon of symbiosis is often encountered — cohabitation of two organisms, in which each (or one) gets its benefits. A striking example is the cohabitation of hermit crab and anemone: coral polyp and marine cancer coexist peacefully and beneficially for each other in the depths of the sea.

The joint life of plants and animals in the form of symbiosis is quite common in nature. Such coexistence enables everyone to survive in difficult conditions, and some organisms cannot survive without a “companion” at all.

The study of types of symbiosis is engaged in science symbiology. Many scientists believe that symbiosis played a large role in evolution and led to a variety of plant and animal organisms.

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There are several types of symbiosis:

  • Commensalism – the benefit of cohabitation gets someone one. An example is the presence in the human gastrointestinal tract of bacteria necessary for normal digestion.
  • Amenalism – one of the partners suffers from cohabitation, the other does not receive any harm or benefit. An example is the growth of light-loving plants in the shade of a spreading tree with dense foliage.
  • Parasitism – two organisms live together, but one uses the other as a source of food. An example is a mistletoe parasitic plant that invades the bark of trees and draws water and nutrients from it.
  • Mutualism is a cohabitation in which both partners are interested. A bright and interesting example of mutualism is the mutually beneficial symbiosis of hermit crab and anemone. They show an amazing example of friendship and ingenuity.

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The hermit crab is a representative of the decapod crayfish squad (type – arthropods). The average size of an animal is about 10 cm. More than 400 species of hermits are known, but all of them are united by one feature: because of the soft body, crayfish must seek additional protection, so they hide in the empty mollusk shells.

With the back pair of legs, the hermit is held in a shell, one claw sticking out of the entrance to the sink, hunts, and the second serves to protect against enemies.

Hermits often settle in shallow water, some species prefer to live at a depth of about 80 m. Arthropods feed on small crustaceans, worms, mollusks, and the remains of dead sea animals.

Actinia (sea anemone) – an animal from the class of coral polyps, has a cylindrical body with tentacles at the end (the tentacles are arranged in several rows around the mouth opening). On the tentacles there are stinging cells – with their help actinia paralyzes small marine animals. The immobilized prey of anemone captures the tentacles and tightens into the mouth opening.

Poison, which secrete stinging cells, causes a severe burn of human skin, therefore it is better not to contact with actinia.

Lifestyle actinium inactive, they can move at a speed of 8 cm per hour, but most often they are attached to any surface (stones, soil).

Anemone does not have a solid skeleton, but due to the low speed of movement it can remain without enough food. Therefore, one can often observe the symbiosis of anemones and hermit crab – such a union benefits not only the polyp, but also the crustacean.

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Cancer and actinia form an excellent duet, their partnership is mutually beneficial and valued by each side. The hermit, as he grows, periodically changes the shell to a large one, while he does not forget to “relocate” actinia: with his claws he carefully moves her to a new place of residence.

The anemone attaches to the shell of its satellite and continues to accompany it. Some arthropods throw a shell together with actinia and are looking for a new “house” on which a polyp is already attached.

The benefits they receive from living together:

  1. Stinging cells of anemone protect cancer from the attack of enemies. The hermit can settle an anemone on the claw, with which it closes the entrance to the shell. If the cancer does not find a suitable shell, it settles a coral polyp on its body.
  2. Actinia from cohabitation gains freedom of movement and access to food. Cancer swims in different layers of water, so the anemone never starves: it hunts small fish and other animals. Also sea anemone can eat pieces of food remaining after the hermit’s meal.

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