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Etymology of symbiosis

Symbiosis comes from Ancient Greek syn-, which means together or with, and -vios, which means life. It literally means living together.

History of symbiosis

In 1877, Bennett used “symbiosis” to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens. Then, the German botanist and father of plant pathology, Heinrich Anton de Bary, used this term in 1879 to describe all cases where different organisms lived together in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Modern definition of symbiosis

Today, scientists use a more specific definition of the word symbiosis. An organism is in symbiosis when the relationship between two or more organisms of two or more species benefits at least one member. However, there is some contention over what this word should actually describe. Some scientists argue that symbiosis should only be used to refer to persistent mutualisms, while others hold that it should apply to any type of persistent biological interactions, which could include mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic relationships. The difference here would be that, persistent mutualisms would only represent relationships that are positive for both organisms involved in the symbiosis, whereas the in latter option, parasitism, would include a relationship which is harmful to one of the organisms. The BBC even removes parasitism from being included in their definition of symbiotic relationships, stating that only commensalism and mutualism (true symbiosis) comprise the definition of symbiosis.

Examples of symbiosis

-bacteria living inside human beings
-sea anemones that ride on the backs of hermit crabs and eat their leftover food
-cleaner fish that eat parasites and dead tissue from larger fish, such as sharks and parrotfish
-bees that collect pollen from orchids and deliver it to other bees, or to other orchids, for pollenation

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