Damian, Raymond T. Department of Zoology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.
Last reviewed:August 2019
- Parasite–host relationships
- Parasite–parasite relationships
- Physiologic interactions
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The scientific study of parasites and of parasitism. Parasitism is a type of symbiosis and is defined as an intimate association between an organism (parasite) and another, larger species of organism (host) upon which the parasite is metabolically dependent. Implicit in this definition is the concept that the host is harmed, while the parasite benefits from the association. Since well-adapted parasites may be nonpathogenic, parasitism merges into another type of symbiosis in which both partners benefit, that is, mutualism. Parasitism also blends with another ecological relationship, predation. For example, ichneumon fly larvae, which ultimately kill their caterpillar hosts by internal consumption, are indeed predators but are called parasitoids, reflecting the similarity of their life-style to true parasitism. By the definition, above, most species of organisms may properly be called parasites. Although technically parasites, pathogenic bacteria and viruses, fungal, and insect parasites of plants are traditionally outside the field of parasitology.
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