How Do Animals And Plants Depend On Each Other: Complete Guide

How do Animals & Plants Depend on Each Other

How Do Animals And Plants Depend On Each Other:  Because plants and animals co-evolved, it should be no surprise that several intricate plant/animal connections are found. Coevolution is the term used to describe the process of interdependent evolution of two or more species. Mutually beneficial relationships are rare, while others that are clearly beneficial to one party at the expense of, or even the death, of the other, are common. The following four major plant/animal relationships are discussed in detail: plant/herbivore, plant/pollinator, plant/disperser, and other examples of reciprocity. After reading this article, you will get a vast knowledge of how animals and plants depend on each other.

How Do Animals And Plants Depend On Each Other: Plant/Herbivore Relationships


How Do Animals And Plants Depend On Each Other: Plant/Herbivore Relationships


In the context of herbivory, an animal consumes plants or pieces of plants that other species have devoured. Microscopically, herbivory comprises bacteria and fungi that feed on plant tissue and produce disease as a result of their actions. Microbes that decompose dead plant tissue are also specialized herbivores, as is the case with fungi. Herbivores such as browsers and grazers, including everything from aphids and caterpillars to deer and bison, are more commonly encountered. Herbivores include insects and animals that eat seeds and other animals that eat plants.

The consumption of entire plants or enough to destroy them by some herbivores is not uncommon. Others eat only a piece of the plant, allowing the plant to recuperate and thrive. The connection between plants and herbivores has long been viewed as one-sided, with the animal being the beneficiary and the plant being the loser. On the other hand, a recent study has revealed that herbivory may have some beneficial effects on plants. The canopy grazing of insects, for example, can allow more light to enter the deeper levels of the forest canopy, which is beneficial. Gypsy moths grazing on canopy trees in some sections of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, for example, has resulted in increased light penetration and, as a result, a more diversified and productive ground layer beneath the canopy trees.

Plants And The Pollinators

It is the transport of pollen from one bloom to the stigma, or female reproductive organ, of another flower that results in fertilization and, in the case of seeds, the generation of seeds. Wind pollinated the oldest plants, and for certain modern plants, wind pollination is still the most convenient way of pollination. Several trees, tall grasses, and plants with small, inconspicuous flowers are specifically bred to pollinate by the wind. Bright, spectacular flowers originated for a different reason: to attract a pollinator to the blossom.

Many plants are pollinated by animals, which is necessary for their survival. Insects, birds, and even bats play a crucial role in the survival of plants. The blooms of these plants evolved in tandem with their pollinators, and their shape mimics the pollinators’ shape and habits. Honeybee-pollinated plants are generally irregular in shape, with a lip that serves as a landing pad for the bee, allowing it to enter the flower more easily and quickly. Flowers that butterflies have pollinated are frequently broad and flat, like helicopter pads. Many plants’ flowers are vividly colored to attract the attention of their insect pollinators, and many of them also provide nectar as an additional incentive. Hummingbirds pollinate tubular flowers with their large beaks, which they find attractive. Bats require blooms that are open enough to accommodate their wings, such as those seen on the saguaro cactus. In the tropics, birds and bats serve the role of pollinators in place of insects. Hornets and honeycreepers, for example, have specialized beaks that evolved to allow them to take advantage of flowers in their diet. It is not uncommon for a beak to be so specialized that it is only functional on a small number of different types of flowers.

On the other hand, pollinators have developed to take benefit of the flowers’ nectar and pollen. A successful pollinator often possesses the excellent color vision, a good memory for locating flowers, and a proboscis, or tongue, for sucking up nectar from flowers and plants.

The use of animal pollination has clear benefits for plants. Many pollinators travel long distances, ensuring genetic diversity through outcrossing or pollen transmission between individuals who are not related to one another. It is also advantageous to the pollinator since it has access to a food source. Mutualism can be seen in the connection between pollinator plants and their hosts.

Imperiled Pollinators


Imperiled Pollinators


Pollinators are in a state of disarray at the moment. There is a threat to the long-standing interactions between plants and pollinators, particularly in urbanized and agricultural areas. Invasive species, habitat erosion and fragmentation, pesticide misuse, and disease have all taken a toll on pollinators in recent years.

As more ground is cleared for human settlement, bees, butterflies, bats, and birds are forced to seek shelter in other places. Our gardens provide little in the way of sustenance for them. They require a steady supply of nectar and pollen throughout the season to survive. The few flowering plants that the majority of people have will not be sufficient.

Fragmentation of plant communities is a problem that is related to this one. Flowers and plants need to be pollinated if they are to produce seeds for the next generation. The absence of pollinators results in no seed being produced, and the plants eventually die, leading to local extinction. Forest, grassland, and desert regions that are isolated from the rest of the world are particularly vulnerable. It is possible that a small patch will not support enough pollinators or that it will be too far away from other patches for pollinators to travel. Plants are unable to reproduce as a result.

Pesticides have also had a negative impact on pollinator numbers. Bees are frequently destroyed by pesticides that are used to control other pests. Diseases and parasite mites are wreaking havoc on honeybee populations. The problem is having an impact on more than simply natural ecosystems. Pollination is necessary for cultivating many food crops, including fruit trees. If pollinators are no longer present, we stand to lose more than three-quarters of our edible crops.

What can be done in this situation? Planting a broad assortment of adult and larval food plants in your garden will encourage pollinators to visit your yard. Build bat and bird shelters, as well as beehives, to protect your property. Pesticide use should be reduced or eliminated. Contribute to the restoration of native plant communities not just in your yard but also in parks and along roadways, and connect them to preserves and other natural places through the use of corridors.

Plants and Their Dispersers

There can never be two plants in the same place simultaneously. Seeds must be spread away from the parent plant in order for them to have enough space to flourish. Wind, water, and animals are all used to disperse seeds, and each has its own method of doing this task. Animal dispersal can be performed through two basic methods: ingestion and hitchhiking on other animals. Animals devour a wide variety of fruits, dispersing the seeds in their droppings as a result of their consumption. Many seeds benefit not only from the spreading process but also from the passage through the intestines. As a result of the scarification caused by digestive acids, seeds are more able to break free from their thick seed coats.

Some seeds include hooks and barbs that allow them to lodge in the fur of animals when they are eaten. Beggar’s ticks and bur marigolds are only a couple of examples of what I mean. Eventually, the seeds are rubbed or scraped off, and they may land on a suitable surface where they might sprout and flourish. People play a significant role in the dispersal of plants as well. Native Americans referred to the common weed plantain as “white man’s footsteps” because it was found wherever settlers walked, often in the settlers’ mud left on their shoes.


Biological mutualism is an obligatory interaction between two or more species that needs inputs from both organisms and results in mutual benefit for both organisms. There are numerous examples of this in nature. As previously noted, pollination and dispersal are mutualistic processes since both the plant and the pollinator or disperser gain from the connection. Another well-known example of mutualism is the link between mycorrhizal fungi and many higher plants. The fungi’s bodies, known as hyphae, are found on or in the tissues of plants, where they make nutrients accessible for the plants to utilize. The plants offer amino acids and other complex substances to the fungi. The orchid, for example, is one of the most well-known examples. Unlike some plants, which may host as many as 100 distinct fungi, orchids have mycorrhizal relationships that are particular to their species. Irrespective of the plant community, distinct mycorrhizal connections are found. Microflora in grasslands differs from that in forests, as shown in the diagram below. Regardless of the extent to which these distinctions exist, they may impact the dispersion of plant communities.

The Lovely Lady-Slipper


The Lovely Lady-Slipper


The reason that lady-slipper orchids are so difficult to grow in a garden is that the demands of both the orchid and the fungus that it is dependent on must be met simultaneously. The growing conditions in the garden must be precise replicas of those found in the orchid’s natural surroundings.

Anyone who attempts to grow these beautiful plants quickly discovers that the pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is significantly more difficult to grow than the yellow lady slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). This is due to the presence of a fungus. Yellow lady-slippers thrive in soils that are slightly acidic and rich in nutrients. The mycorrhizal fungus connected with them flourishes in the same conditions as those found in woodlands and shade gardens.

For its part, the pink lady-slipper thrives on sterile and acidic soil rather than the typical garden variety. Plant the pink lady-slipper in rich garden soil, and the fungus connected with it will be unable to survive. As a result, the pink lady-slipper steadily deteriorates and eventually succumbs to the elements. The majority of lady-slipper orchids are still harvested from the wild, which has a negative impact on native populations. Purchase them solely from nurseries that specialize in the propagation of their plants.


Since plants and animals co-evolved, it should be no surprise that there are a number of complicated plant/animal links to be discovered. Coevolution is a phrase used to describe the interdependent evolution of two or more species that takes place in close proximity to one another. It is unusual to find a mutually helpful relationship, yet it is easy to find profitable relationships with one member at the expense, or even death, of the other. Each of the four primary plant-animal partnerships is covered in length, including the ties between plants and herbivores, plants and pollinators, plants and dispersers, and other forms of reciprocity. After reading this article, you will have gained a comprehensive understanding of how animals and plants are interdependent on one another.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the link between plants and animals when it comes to an ecosystem?

Plants and animals rely on one another for survival, as reciprocal interdependence is a requirement for their survival. Plants shelter animals and provide oxygen, which is necessary for the creatures to survive. When animals die, they disintegrate and transform into plants that serve as natural fertilizers. Plants rely on animals for various services, including nutrition, pollination, and seed dissemination.

What are some examples of plant/herbivore relationships?

Some examples of this kind of relationship are given below:

Gypsy moth – Oaks and other hardwoods

Many birds – Seeds and fruits

Aphids – Plant juices

What type of plants do reptiles disperse?

Reptiles usually disperse fruit with a lot of flesh, especially berries like strawberries and groundcherry, and jack-in-the-pulpit.

Elysha Murphy

I'm Elysha Murphy, the creator of Easier Gardening. I am very passionate about gardening, and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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