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Mutualism between Clownfish and Sea Anemones: A Computational Model

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  • Mutualism
  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Biology
  • Mathematics


The biological phenomenon of symbiosis is a fascinating area of biomathematical study. However, research has primarily focused on competition and predator-prey interactions, leaving other associations relatively unexamined. In this study, we investigated the mutualistic relationship between clownfish and sea anemones. Our initial goal was to build a model that accurately captured the interactions and relationship between these species; our hope was that this model would predict such information as the parameters and initial conditions needed to maintain steady state populations. Upon consideration of our initial model, we determined that its specificity outweighed its ability to produce biologically realistic results. The model was theoretically reasonable, and while some of the data we found in academic journals proved sufficient, two important factors had no available information: the association rate between free-living clownfish and free-living anemones, and the association rate between free-living clownfish and symbiotic pairs. These rates drove the model and thus became the focus of our study. We were forced to drastically simplify our model in order to arrive at something manageable, as is common in biological models, but this necessary step led us to inspect the sensitivity of the association rates and other parameters and examine the accuracy of our model.

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