I talked about your question with my friend Angeliqua Montoya. She’s a graduate student at Washington State University. She works on a mutualism between pea plants and bacteria.

“I study ecology, which is looking at interactions between different species,” she said. “Mutualisms are interactions where both species benefit.”

Living things interact with each other in lots of ways. When a lion kills a rabbit, that’s an interaction. When a bird builds a nest in a tree, that’s an interaction. When a bee collects pollen from a flower, that’s also an interaction.

Some interactions are good for just one individual and bad for the other. The lion gets a meal. But the rabbit becomes a meal.

Some interactions are good for one individual but neutral for the other. The bird gets a nice place to lay eggs. The tree isn’t helped or harmed.

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