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noun, plural: symbioses

A close, long-term association between organisms of different species


Symbiosis refers to a close and prolonged interaction between organisms of different species. Previously, the term is restricted to a mutualistic relationship wherein both organisms benefit from the interaction. In mutualism, the relationship between the two organisms is interdependent. Each one gains benefits from the other. This type of relationship between different species where both of the organisms in question benefit from the presence of the other. An example is the hermit crab whose shell offers a niche for anemones to exist in which the anemone can defend the crab with its stinging capabilities.

At present, the scope of the term became broader. Now, it includes other forms of associations such as parasitism and commensalism. Anton de Bary's original definition of symbiosis is it is a long-term relationship between two different species. To this can be added, mutualism, (benefit for both), commensalism (benefit for one neutral for the other) and parasitism (benefit for one, costly for the other).

Word origin: Greek symbíōsis, sym- + biō, bioûn (to live) + -sis

Also called:

  • symbiotic relationship

See also:

Related term(s):