List of symbiotic relationships

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Symbiosis can vary between mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism, though these grade into each other, and it is often difficult to tell which is involved in a given relationship. In mutualism, both organisms benefit. In commensalism, one benefits and the other is unaffected; in parasitism, one benefits and the other is harmed.

Some of these relationships are so close that we speak of the composite of two species as one unit; for example, we speak of the composite of algae and fungi as lichens.


Main article: mutualism (biology)

A type of symbiotic interaction in which both organisms benefit from the relationship in some way.


Main article: commensalism

An interaction in which one organism benefits from the relationship without causing benefit or harm to the other organism.


Main article: parasitism

A type of symbiotic interaction in which one organism benefits and the other is harmed.

Cleaning symbiosis[edit]

Cleaner wrasse Labroides cleaning ectoparasites from a sweetlips
Main article: cleaning symbiosis

Many species are involved in cleaning symbiosis, though claimed symbioses grade into commensalism, scavenging and parasitism. A clearly symbiotic example is the cleaner wrasse Labroides, a small fish conspicuously shaped and marked, being longitudinally striped with blue. It eats only ectoparasites at "cleaning stations" from the bodies of larger fish such as puffers, sweetlips and groupers.[1][2]


Main article: endosymbiosis
Symbiosis by luci Endosymbiont Role of endosymbiont Role of host
Euprymna scolopes (Mollusca) Vibrio fischeri Counter-illumination via bioluminescence[3] Reproduction
Legumes Rhizobia Fixed nitrogen Photosynthesis (principally as the dicarboxylic acids malate and succinate)
Actinorhizal plants Frankia bacteria Fixed nitrogen Photosynthesis (principally as the dicarboxylic acids malate and succinate)
Anglerfish Bioluminescent bacteria Bioluminescent lure for prey capture Protection
Vascular plants mycorrhizae Sequestering of phosphate ions from soil, disease protection Photosynthates
Parasitoid wasps Polydnavirus Immune suppression of parasite host Propagation of the virus
Poaceae Endophytic fungi Disease prevention, Drought tolerance[4] Photosynthates

Autotrophic endosymbioses[edit]

Host Endosymbiont Role of endosymbiont Role of host
Coral (Cnidaria), other invertebrates Zoochlorellae (green algae), zooxanthellae ("non-green" algae, typically dinoflagellates, cryptomonads, chrysomonads or diatoms) Photosynthates Protection, inorganic nutrients
Foraminifera, ciliates (protists) Variety of algae Photosynthates Locomotion, protection, inorganic nutrients
Sponges (Porifera) Variety of algae (Often green-algae) Photosynthates Protection, inorganic nutrients
Hydra viridis (Cnidaria) Chlorella Photosynthates[5] Inorganic nutrients
Elysia viridis (Mollusca) Codium fragile Photosynthates[6] Locomotion, protection, inorganic nutrients
Convoluta roscoffensis (Platyhelminthes, traditionally) Tetraselmis convolutae Locomotion, protection, inorganic nutrients
Pompeii worm, Alvinella pompejana (Annelida) Thermophilic chemoautotrophic bacteria Insulation, chemosynthates Locomotion, inorganic nutrients
Mole salamanders Oophila Oxygen (from photosynthesis) Carbon dioxide (from respiration)
Riftia pachyptila (Annelida) Bacteria
Solemya velum (Mollusca) Sulfur-oxidizing chemoautotrophic bacteria[7]
Orphium frutescens Xylocopa violacea (Female Carpenter Bee) nutrients for larvae Locomotion of Reproduction

Digestive endosymbioses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Helfman, G; Collette, B.; Facey, D. (1997). The Diversity of Fishes. Blackwell Publishing. p. 380. ISBN 0-86542-256-7. 
  2. ^ Fenner, Robert M. (2001). The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. TFH. pp. 282–283. ISBN 1-890087-02-5. 
  3. ^ Young, R.E. & C.F. Roper 1976. Bioluminescent countershading in midwater animals: evidence from living squid. Science 191(4231): 1046–1048.1251214
  4. ^
  5. ^ Matthias Habetha et al. The Hydra viridis / Chlorella symbiosis.
  6. ^ R.K. Trench, J.E. Boyle and D.C. Smith (1973). "The Association between Chloroplasts of Codium fragile and the Mollusc Elysia viridis. I. Characteristics of isolated Codium chloroplasts". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 184 (1074): 51–61. doi:10.1098/rspb.1973.0030.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Douglas, A E (1998). "Nutritional interactions in insect-microbial symbioses: Aphids and their symbiotic bacteria Buchnera". Annual Review of Entomology. 43: 17–38. doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.43.1.17. ISSN 0066-4170. PMID 15012383.