Algae + sloths + moths = an interesting three-way mutualism – Carey Lab
Algae and Sloths symbiotic relationship is Mutualsim relationship, meaning they both benefit from the relationship. Do sloths and moths really have a symbiotic relationship or are the moths The animals eat the moth-fed algae in their fur to supplement their. The study, by researchers from the University of Helsinki, looked at the fur and algae at a molecular level to examine this relationship.
This is a risky move, opening the sloth up to forest floor predators such as jaguars.
So why does the sloth do it, why not just let it rip in the canopy? Photo courtesy of darnis. Sloth fur harbors a diverse ecosystem of insects and algae including some species which are exclusively found in sloth fur.
When the sloth climbs down for its weekly defecation female moths fly out from the fur and lay their eggs in the fresh sloth dung. After the larvae of the moths grow up, they emerge from the dung as adult moths and fly up into the canopy to locate another sloth and so the cycle continues.
As their dead bodies decompose, they release nitrogen and other essential nutrients into the fur.
The nutrients, in combination with water from frequent rain events sloths live in rainforestsprovide all that is required for algae to grow on the fur of the sloth. The three-way relationship between sloths, moths, and their algae is complex and dependent on all players within the relationship.
This beneficial relationship has locked the three-toed sloth into a trade-off that requires the sloth to face increased predation in order to preserve the three-way mutualism.
Scientists questioned why the sloths make this perilous descent rather than defecating from the canopy which the two-toed sloth has been known to do. Sloth fur harbours a diverse range of arthropods and algae.
Algae and Sloth Symbiotic Relationship by Celeste Garcia on Prezi
Some moth species, including Cryptoses Choloepi Dyar, are known to colonize sloth fur exclusively. When a sloth climbs down their tree female moths lay their eggs in the fresh sloth dung.Spotted Salamanders And Green Algae Have A Strange Symbiotic Relationship
From this nursery adult moths emerge and fly to the canopy to mate in the sloths fur. The scientists hypothesized that the moth, whose lifecycle is entirely dependent on the sloth descending from its tree, must offer an important nutritional benefit to the sloth in exchange for its baffling risk taking.
The researchers captured two- and three-toed sloths and compared the number of moths inhabiting their fur. They also measured the biomass of the algae growing on the sloth and the amount of inorganic nitrogen in the fur- an important nutrient for algae growth. The team found that sloths with more moths colonising their fur also had more nutrient-rich fur and more algae growth.
The researchers found that three-toed sloths had significantly more moths, nutrients and algae growth in their fur than two-toed sloths harboured in theirs.