10 Mutualism Examples

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both organisms involved in the relationship benefits from the relationship.
It could be described as a win win relationship.

Clownfish and sea anemones: Clownfish are small, brightly-colored fish found in coral reefs. They are frequently found in the tentacles of sea anemones, which typically capture their prey by paralyzing them with stinging cells, and then ingesting the animal. The mucus of the clownfish blocks the stinging cells of the sea anemones. The sea anemones offer protection for the clownfish and the clownfish provide algae for the sea anemones. Clownfish and sea anemones present an example of mutualism.


Termites and intestinal flagellates: Although termites can physically chew and ingest wood, they are incapable of chemically digesting cellulose into sugars. They rely on intestinal flagellates, which live in their hindgut and break down the cellulose. They both benefit and it is an example of mutualism.


Animals eat plant fruit and disperse the seeds when using the restroom. The animal benefits from eating the fruit, and the plant benefits from the seed dispersal.

animal eating fruit

Humans and Plants: Humans and other mammals exhale carbon dioxide which plants use in photosynthesis and plants give off oxygen that mammals and humans use in cellular respiration.


Bees and flowering plants: Bees use pollen for energy, proteins, and other nutrients . In turn, the bee will spread the pollen from flower to flower resulting in fertilization.

bees and flowers

Whistling Thorn and Bullhorn Acacia and protective Ants: The ants nest inside the plant’s thorns. In exchange for shelter, the ants protect acacias from attack by herbivores.

bullhorn thorn

Spider crab and algae. Spider crabs often spend their time in shallow areas of the sea making them highly visible to predators. However, living on their backs are algae that act as camouflage. The spider crab gives the algae a place to live, and the algae provides camouflage for the crab.

spider crab

The red-billed oxpecker eats ticks on the impala’s coat, in a cleaning symbiosis.

oxpecker mutualism

Pistol shrimp and Goby  The burrow is built and tended by the pistol shrimp, and the goby provides protection by watching out for danger. When both are out of the burrow, the shrimp maintains contact with the goby using its antennae. The goby, having the better vision, alerts the shrimp of danger using a characteristic tail movement, and then both retreat into the safety of the shared burrow.

pistol shrimp