Life is filled with creatures that are out to get each other. In a paper-scissors-rock style cycle, predators, game and plants are all affecting each other in a bid to stay on top. This competition keeps the ecosystem in balance. The ecosystem thrives off this balance, and suffers when the balance is thrown out of order. In the Pokemon world, Pokemon are often in conflict, too. Zangoose and Seviper have been at each other’s throats for millennia, and Pidgeot has no problem scooping a Caterpie up for a tasty morsel.
However, not all animal and plant relationships have to be competitive. When two animals enter in to a relationship where both benefit, this is symbiosis, and it is one of the more pleasant parts of balance. There are three main types of symbiosis:
Mutualism – Both parties benefit from the relationship.
Commensalism – On party benefits but the other remains unaffected.
Parasitism – One party benefits to the detriment of the other.
In a Mutual Symbiotic relationship, species will not compete but instead work together to benefit both parties, such as bees and flowers. A bee will drink the nectar of a flower for nourishment, and in return will help the flower by carrying its pollen to other flowers for pollination. Both parties benefit. Pokémon are not excluded from symbiotic relationships. In fact, they are rather good at showing just how great it is to work together. I am excluding Pokemon of the same species that work together (such as three Diglett evolving in to Dugtrio) because Symbiosis only refers to relationship between different species.
Mantine and Remoraid
Mantine, the kite-like sting ray, is often seen with a happy little Remoraid tucked safety under its wing. According to the Pokedex, “It is not bothered by the Remoraid that hitches rides”, and “it doesn’t care if Remoraid attach to it for scavenging its leftovers”. Mantine is much larger than Remoraid and may find it easier to catch food, so Remoraid benefit greatly from hitching a lift on the underside of Mantine’s wing. It is easily able to glean food scraps that it may not have been able to get otherwise, and for no effort. Not only that, but Mantine offers protection to the smaller and more vulnerable Remoraid who “cling to Mantine to feed on the big Pokémon’s scraps. This is an adaptation to avoid foes“. Mantine can also leap 300 feet out of the water away from predators such as Sharpedo. Not only that, but if I was a Remoraid I would latch on to Mantine solely for the joy of jumping 300 feet (a football field) so I could pretend to fly.
This is similar to a real world relationship. The Remora (hey, hey that sounds familiar!), or Suckerfish, is able to suction onto stingray and sharks for the same reasons as Remoraid attaches to Mantine (except for the, you know, flying part). However, prior to gen IV, Mantine wasn’t known to benefit from Remoraid’s attachment (more on this later). If only one partner benefits from the relationship, and the other is unaffected, it is known as a Commensal relationship. The Remora is an example of as the host animal remains unaffected this (although, there is much debate among Biologists about that, as it may clean parasites off the skin). In the case of Pokemon, Remoraid reaps the benefits and Mantine just doesn’t mind.
However, we know that Mantine and Remoraid aren’t an example of Commensalism. In gen IV we discovered that Mantine has a baby evolution, Mantyke; the mini stingray with a terrifying face on its back. Mantyke is unique in the sense that is the only Pokemon that requires a certain Pokémon in the party for in-game evolution. When a Remoraid is in the party, Mantyke can successfully evolve into Mantine. Without Remoraid, Mantyke would be unable to evolve, and without Mantine, Remoraid wouldn’t be protected or have as much food. The two are in a perfectly working Symbiotic relationship.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images used in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned.