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Encyclopedia > Parasitic

A parasite is an organism that lives in or on the living tissue of a host organism at the expense of it. The biological interaction between the host and the parasite is called parasitism. Parasitism is a type of symbiosis, by one definition, although another definition of symbiosis excludes parasitism, since it requires that the host benefit from the interaction as well as the parasite.

Parasites are generally smaller than their hosts, absorbing nutrients from the host's body fluids, but this is far from a universal strategy.

Organisms whose life cycle guarantees the death of the host are not called parasites, but are parasitoids.

A few parasites have hosts which are themselves parasites. These are called hyperparasites.


Many lifeforms are parasitic only during a part of their lifecycle. Many cuckoos, for example, are brood parasites: their young are parasitic on the host species, but adult cuckoos fend for themselves. (A species' own offspring does not qualify, of course, as that would necessarily mean classifying every organism to exist as a parasite of its parent host.)

The term parasite is also used for people who benefit from a relationship, society or system without contributing significantly to it, although they could; however this usage of the term is highly controversial because of its association with Nazism and its various extermination programs.

See also: saprophyte, intestinal parasite


  Results from FactBites:
Parasite (0 words)
Parasite exploded onto the KISS scene with their first live show on February 8th 1997, at Harley’s in Cleethorpes, and have been delighting KISS fans with their powerful, authentic, re-creations of all that is best about KISS ever since.
Parasite are four very talented guys who turned their dream into reality and pay their tribute to KISS with energy and enthusiasm and true style.
Parasite believes wholeheartedly in what they do and put on a good show with the philosophy that both they and the fans are there to have fun.
Parasite - MSN Encarta (1097 words)
Parasitism affects most life forms, from bacteria infected by the viruses known as bacteriophages, to humans, who are subject to more than 100 parasites known to cause disease.
Parasites that live on the inside of the host’s body are known as endoparasites, while those that live on the outer surface of their hosts are known as ectoparasites.
Parasitic worms, including flatworms (soft-bodied worms, such as tapeworms and flukes) and roundworms (thin, unsegmented worms, also called nematodes) are endoparasites, usually living in the intestines, lungs, liver, or other internal organs of their hosts.
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