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In other words, this is a one-sided symbiotic relationship.


In some of these commensalism relationships, the organism that is reaping the benefit will use the other for protection or transportation. In parasitism, one organism benefits from the relationship but at the expense of the other. The organism may live inside the other's body or on its surface. In some of these parasitic relationships the host dies and in others, it is important that the host remain alive.

Mutualism is a close relationship where both parties benefit.

Both species will benefit from the relationship and many of these relationships are ling-lasting. By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Please set a username for yourself. People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Four Kinds of Symbiosis There are several kinds of symbiosis to consider when looking for examples of symbiosis: Commensalism Parasitism Mutualism Eendosymbiosis and ectosymbiosis.

Commensalism Commensalism is a type of relationship where one of the organisms benefits greatly from the symbiosis.

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Example: The relationship between cattle egrets and cattle. The cattle egret will eat insects that have been disturbed when the cattle forage. Example: A hermit crab taking up residence in an empty seashell. Example: A spider building a web on a tree. Parasitism In parasitism, one organism benefits from the relationship but at the expense of the other. Example: Fleas and mosquitoes feed on blood from other organisms. In this type of parasitic relationship, the host needs to stay alive and it is not damaged greatly.

Example: Barnacles that attach to the bodies of whales. The whale is not harmed greatly, but may have some pain or itching. Example: Tapeworms Tapeworms do more damage to their hosts because they eat partially digested food and that deprives the host of some food and nourishment. Example: Aphids Aphids eat sap from plants.

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Mutualism Mutualism is a close relationship where both parties benefit. Example: Cleaning symbiosis In the ocean, certain species, like shrimps and gobies, will clean fish. From: Insect Ecology Fourth Edition , In common usage, it is a portmanteau that denotes any type of interaction perceived as beneficial in any field, whether it be management, construction, waste management, or even business mergers and acquisitions.

A word that originated in the vocabulary of biological sciences has come to be used by both managers and ordinary people. For biologists, symbiosis denotes certain types of interaction between species. To study it is to enter an immense multidisciplinary field whose precise scope is hard to define. The concept of symbiosis contributes to a holistic vision of living things that is markedly different to the reductionist approaches often used by biologists.

This may be why symbiosis has struggled to find its rightful place in life science research and teaching remains too often limited to describing a few anecdotal examples of interactions. Read full chapter.


Symbioses work in different ways, but some common traits can be identified. In most symbioses acquired by horizontal transmission, recognition is based on chemotaxis mechanisms, meaning that the symbiont is attracted by molecules produced by the host. Contact is based on ligand—receptor interactions. The symbiont is often faced with hostile conditions, such as the presence of antimicrobial peptides and oxidative stress, to which it may be more or less adapted.

Finally, if symbionts are internalized, this occurs through endocytosis. For vertically transmitted symbioses, the path is often a bit shorter, but if the host is pluricellular, passage from the organ where the symbiont functions to the offspring may also involve exocytosis and endocytosis phenomena.

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The host often has dedicated structures for receiving symbionts, but their development is conditioned by interaction with the latter. Regulation of the density of symbionts and their activity often seems to be based on bacterial quorumsensing phenomena. The host must avoid being exploited or invaded. Mechanisms are therefore implemented to control the function and number of symbionts, whose growth may be limited by digestion by the host or by adjustment of the supply of a limiting nutrient, such as nitrogen in coral.

Generalization is impossible, but this non-exhaustive list of characteristics common to a large number of symbiotic associations is proof of a key fact: these interactions of communication and physical association are not spontaneous and each stage is a product of evolution. This evolution leads to adaptation to precise ecological niches, in which organisms living in symbiosis have been retained by natural selection and are often important players. One major challenge for current research is therefore understanding the evolution of each of the various symbioses.

The idea is to measure to what extent symbiosis, as a phenomenon of interspecies association, has shaped the evolution of life on our planet. When symbiosis is mentioned in biology lessons, it is often through examples such as the digestion of plant matter in ruminants, the assimilation of carbon by symbiotic algae in coral or the fixation of nitrogen by the nodules of leguminous plants. Nutrition is therefore the first role of symbiosis that we think of and, although it is not the only one, it is nonetheless very important.

We shall see through well-documented examples that symbiosis plays a key role in nutrition for many organisms, whether by introducing compounds such as carbon, nitrogen and minerals into the food chain, or by transforming barely digestible materials into directly usable nutrients. By using these refractory materials and recycling various metabolic waste products, symbiosis helps organisms both to save energy and to adapt to ecological niches that it alone enables them to exploit. Effectively, therefore, this is not the end of the symbiosis as an association, but of the entire holobiont.

In other cases, the end of a symbiosis can trigger many situations. Of course, these losses are compensated for by the growth and division of other bacteria present in the system, or through the acquisition of new symbionts from the environment. This has been shown very recently in the hydrothermal annelid Riftia pachyptila [KLO 15] , whose symbionts are capable of returning to free life from the debris of the trophosome.

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They express a flagellum, absent in symbiotic forms, which enables them to move actively, and they rapidly start dividing in the environment. In photosynthetic symbioses, such as that of corals, the symbionts release an exudate of carbonated compounds to their host and are therefore rarely digested [TIT 96]. However, a sudden change in the environment, such as an increase in water temperature, in UV rays or a strong increase in the quantity of CO 2 , can cause coral bleaching.

This phenomenon is due to the discharge of symbionts through exocytosis, deconstruction or degradation of animal tissues by apoptosis phenomena. The disappearance of symbionts considerably reduces nutrients input in colonies and can lead to significant mortality rates in corals. In these three cases, for very different reasons and with very different consequences for the host, the symbiosis ends here for the microorganisms, which return to free life. This return gives the bacteria the opportunity to colonize new hosts.

This aspect of symbiotic interaction and its evolutionary consequences is only just beginning to be explored. Hartel, in Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment , In symbiosis or mutualism, both organisms benefit. This association can be specific or general and, in some cases, so highly specialized that one or both organisms are obligate symbionts and cannot live without the other.

In return for the bacteria fixing atmospheric nitrogen, the plant supplies the bacteria with nutrients. An agricultural example is the symbiosis between Bradyrhizobium japonicum and the legume soybean Glycine max ; a forestry example is the symbiosis between the actinomycete Frankia and a range of angiosperms such as alder Alnus sp. A similar situation is observed with several genera of soil fungi, the mycorrhizae, which colonize plant roots, thereby enhancing uptake of water and mineral nutrients by the plant, principally phosphorus.

Again, the plant supplies the mycorrhizae with nutrients. Symbiosis or mutualism is much more frequent than commonly realized. These kinds of mutually cooperative ventures — not competitive ones — are the norm in nature. Scott A. James S. Coleman, in C4 Plant Biology , Symbioses between mycorrhizal fungi and C 4 species are nearly ubiquitous Ingham and Molina, ; Rabatin and Stinner, , and symbiosis between the roots of C 4 plants and diazotrophic N 2 -fixing bacteria is very common, particularly in tropical and subtropical ecosystems Marschner, These two mutualistic associations are important for plant acquisition of nutrients, especially P and N, and mycorrhizae may also improve plant water uptake Ingham and Molina, ; Rabatin and Stinner, ; Marschner, Mycorrhizae and N 2 -fixing bacteria may, therefore, affect plant-herbivore relations by influencing plant nutrient and water status, which are known to play an important role in plant—herbivore interactions Jones and Coleman, ; McNaughton, b.

The effects of these symbionts on plant-herbivore relations may be either positive or negative. For example, improved plant nutrient and water status resulting from these symbioses will most likely increase herbivory tolerance.

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However, these symbioses are known to be carbon-costly to the host plant and can decrease plant competitive ability when carbon resources are limiting e. The high photosynthetic rates and WUE of C 4 species may allow them to more readily pay the carbon costs of these and other mutualistic symbioses e.

However, recovery from folivory may be slowed if such symbioses are a severe carbon drain and if C 4 species support a greater mass of symbiotic microbes than C 3 species in a given habitat e. As mentioned before, C 4 species occur primarily in warm, high-light, and often osmotically stressful habitats of tropical-to-warm temperate latitudes.

This necessarily means that the herbivores that can potentially feed on C 4 plants are a subset of the herbivores that potentially inhabit the environments in which C 4 plants are found. Clearly, this defines and limits the potential range of plant-herbivore relationships in these ecosystems. Thus, the habitats in which C 4 species occur might have less diverse invertebrate communities with larger-sized aboveground herbivores e. Also, vertebrate folivores may predominate in these C 4 habitats.

In many temperate ecosystems, the growth of C 4 species is largely restricted to the warmest part of the growing season. In contrast, competing C 3 species are often dormant during this time, and are instead active during the cool seasons Teeri and Stowe, ; Stowe and Teeri, ; Osmond et al.

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