Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Little Mack Attack

When one animal partner uses another one to scare away predators or to attract prey, the relationship is called mutualism.

An example of this type of mutualism is the relationship between the Atlantic horse mackerel and the Portuguese man-of-war. (The Portuguese man-of-war itself is actually an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together!)

The mackerel lives between the tentacles of the Portuguese man-of-war. The sting from a man-of-war can be deadly, but the horse mackerel's immune system protects it from the venom of the man-of-war. If a larger fish -- attracted by the mackerel's brights colors and small size -- tries to grab the mackerel, the man-of-war will sting the larger fish and paralyze or kill it for its own food.

For my poem "Little Mack Attack," I imagined how the little mackerel ("Little Mack") -- safe among the tentacles of the man-of-war -- might become quite bold and saucy.

illustration copyright Shennen Bersani
text copyright Scotti Cohn

Little Mack Attack
by Scotti Cohn

Looking for lunch, my fine-finned foe?
Perhaps a mackerel snack "to go"?
It's true that you're a larger fish,
but you will never get your wish.

You think that you're the big kahuna,
but you are just a bluefin tuna.
You'll have to hunt me where I dwell:
here at the Man-of-War Hotel.

To read more about the Portuguese man-of-war, click HERE. Read a brief article about the horse mackerel's immunity to the man-of-war's venom HERE.

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