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What are parasites
- Jun 22, 2018 -

In evolutionary biology, parasitism is a relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life.

Parasites include protozoans such as the agents of malaria, sleeping sickness, and amoebic dysentery; animals such as hookworms, lice, mosquitoes, and vampire bats; fungi such as honey fungus and the agents of ringworm; and plants such as mistletoe, dodder, and the broomrapes. 

There are six major parasitic strategies of exploitation of animal hosts, namely parasitic castration, directly transmitted parasitism (by contact), trophically transmitted parasitism (by being eaten), vector-transmitted parasitism, parasitoidism, and micropredation.


Parasitism is a type of consumer-resource interaction,but unlike predators, parasites, with the exception of parasitoids, are typically much smaller than their hosts, do not kill them, and often live in or on their hosts for an extended period. Parasites of animals are highly specialised, and reproduce at a faster rate than their hosts. Classic examples include interactions between vertebrate hosts and tapeworms, flukes, the malaria-causing Plasmodium species, and fleas.


Parasites reduce host fitness by general or specialised pathology, from parasitic castration to modification of host behaviour. Parasites increase their own fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for their survival, in particular by feeding on them and by using intermediate (secondary) hosts to assist in their transmission from one definitive (primary) host to another. Although parasitism is often unambiguous, it is part of a spectrum of interactions between species, grading via parasitoidism into predation, through evolution into mutualism, and in some fungi, shading into being saprophytic.

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