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Parasitism Definition, Meaning, Types and Examples

Parasitism can be defined as a relationship between two different species where one organism lives in or on the other organism, takes benefit of the other organism by causing it some harm. The organism being harmed is known as the host whereas the organism getting benefitted is known as a parasite.

Fleas, barnacles, and tapeworms are some of the parasites known to man. One of the most common parasites which thrive on humans is a leech. It lives in the hair of humans and causes itchiness to the scalp. Tapeworms can be found on the intestinal lining of pigs, cows, etc. These worms feed on the digested food that passes through the intestine, thereby depriving nutrients of the host cell.

Types of Parasitism

Parasitism is of various kinds. It is differentiated into different types based on characteristics, size, life cycles, and interactions with the host of the parasite.

Below are the different types of parasitism discussed.

  • Endoparasitism:

    Parasites living inside the body of their host are called endoparasites and the phenomenon is called endoparasitism. Nematodes and hookworms are examples of endoparasitism.

  • Brood Parasitism:

    Brood parasitism is referred to as a phenomenon where a species parasitizes a host to raise the offspring of the parasite at the cost of the host. For example, the cuckoo bird is one of the best examples of Brood parasitism. It lays its eggs on the other's nest, and the host bird then raises the babies. Sometimes these brood parasites also destroy the eggs of other species to lay their eggs in the nest.

    A brown-headed cowbird is another example of brood parasitism because it takes over the houses of various birds such as phoebes.

  • Ectoparasitism:

    Ectoparasitism is the term used to describe the phenomenon where parasites living outside the host's body. Lice and ticks are perfect examples of Ectoparasitism.

  • Mesoparasitism:

    Parasites that partly reside in the host body are called mesoparasites and the phenomenon is called mesoparasitism. These parasites enter the body with the help of an opening present on the outer surface of the host.

  • Obligate parasitism:

    Parasites that can thrive only on a particular species of the host are called obligate parasites. The parasites evolve to build a specific relationship with the host, i.e. they attach themselves to the host and rely on them completely for their survival. Be that as it may, the host is regularly not excessively hurt, in this manner guaranteeing its accessibility for the committed parasite to live upon. Head lice are an illustration of a committed parasite since they don't endure expulsion from their host.

  • Facultative parasitism:

    Facultative parasites are very rare. Unlike other parasites which generally exploit a host to survive, facultative parasites do not exploit the host body. They can reproduce and can in the absence of a host body. But at times, they show parasitic features. For example, a roundworm can infect a human, but it can also survive if it lives in an environment. Hence, this type of parasite can exploit a host to survive or even can exist without a host as well.

Examples of Parasitism

  • Insects:

    Entomophagous parasites, which are also bugs, are parasitic parasites that feed on other bugs. In general, the parasites prey on young creepy crawlies or hatchlings. A fraction of the parasitic creepy crawlies lays their eggs within the body of a hatchling of a different bug species. Practically, all creepy crawly species are assaulted by somewhere around one sort of parasite.

  • Plants:

    Aphids are small, green insects that feed on the sap from plants. Many of them cause damage to plants and can even destroy organic products like wheat or vegetables. Some plants can even be parasites. Parasitic behavior has been observed in angiosperms (blooming plants) on 12 occasions. It accounts for approximately 1% of all flowering plants. Haustoria's modified root will strip the host plant of its xylem and phloem, allowing water flow to the parasitic plants.

  • Humans:

    More than 100 varieties of organisms can parasitize human beings, including fungi, ticks, leeches, tapeworms, and protozoa.


In this article, we have mentioned the most common parasites known to mankind. Parasites, most of the time, cause harm to the hosts. Hence, we should maintain hygiene to prevent ourselves from getting infected by parasites.

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