Made for Each Other
Joanna McInerney, illustrated by Georgina Taylor
Big Picture Press
Joanna McInerney explores the symbiotic relationships – evolved interactions – that exist between different organisms living close together often for their mutual benefit. Using examples between animal and plant, and between two kinds of animal, she takes readers to various forest locations, beneath the waves, onto the plains and to tropical jungles and rainforests presenting different kinds of symbiotic relationships.
One instance of mutualistic symbiosis is that between the tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and cardinal flowers. These red flowers are one of the birds’ favourite sources of nectar, while their tubular shape is well-suited to accommodate the birds’ beaks. A hummingbird hovers in the air, wings beating and as well as feeding on their nectar, the birds collect pollen from the cardinal flowers, transferring it to another on the next feeding stop. Over time these two species have become almost entirely dependent on one another for survival.
Another example of non-insect pollination is that of the balsa tree flowers carried out by the white-headed capuchin monkeys living in the Ecuadorian rainforest treetops. The process of evolution has ensured that as much pollen dust as possible is transferred when the monkeys feed from flower to flower.
Moving under water, we learn that remora fish have a specially adapted dorsal fin that functions as a sucker by which the fish attach themselves to sharks and thus conserve energy while at the same time feeding on the leftovers of their carrier sharks. In return the hosts receive what the author terms ‘a type of exclusive spa treatment’ with the remoras nibbling at dead skin and shark parasites.
On the Serengeti plains of Eastern Africa can be found one of the most well-known symbiotic relationships: that between the little oxpecker birds and giraffes. The former tend to spend much of their time close to their hosts and use their curved beaks to remove giraffe parasites. Using their two backward-facing toes to cling even to moving giraffes they also keep a watch for predatory animals. The oxpeckers make use of giraffe hair that which they pluck from their hosts to line their nests.
Each of these examples, as well as the other seventeen, are strikingly illustrated by Georgina Taylor. Every one of her artful watercolour compositions of her subjects are reminiscent of Audobon, the 19th century ornithologist and painter.