The Web of Life (22-3-20) Commensalism


Commensalism is a relationship between organisms where one benefits another without being harmed. In larger organisms, this typically involves nutrition.

Microbes are often more intimate, sharing with each other genic bits that provide rapid adaptability. The littlest ones live a lifestyle of genetic literacy.

 Tank Plants

Bromeliads are a family of 3,170 different flowering plants. The pineapple is a bromeliad.

Numerous bromeliads are epiphytic. An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant, albeit non-parasitically. Lichen, moss, and orchids are exemplary epiphytes. The smallest bromeliad is Spanish moss.

Tank plants are a species of rainforest bromeliad that cling to trees with their small roots. A tank bromeliad’s broad leaves press together at the base, forming a container that holds water; anywhere from 0.24 liters to 45 liters, depending upon the species.

This pond-among-the-trees creates an ecosystem. Microbes make a home, as do small animals.

A food web forms. The bacteria and protozoa feed insect larvae and tiny crustaceans, who make a meal for spiders, larger insects, salamanders, and tree frogs. These are in turn prey to larger animals, including snakes and birds.

Thus, by providing a watering hole, tank plants are a keystone species, facilitating a habitat for worms, insects, snails, crabs, frogs, rodents, and many others. The bromeliad benefits by feeding on the droppings that the animals leave behind – a nutrient-rich soil substitute.

Many bromeliads bloom conspicuous flowers that are pollinated by nectar-gathering birds. The inflorescence (flower clusters) of bromeliads are the most diverse of any plant family.