Wikipedia definition of symbiosis: "Symbiosis (from Greek σύν "together" and βίωσις "living")[2] is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species."

Wikipedia definition of mutualism: "Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits from the activity of the other."

In intro biology class, I (and many other people, I'm sure) was taught that mutualism is a type of symbiosis. However, now that I think more about it, it seems like some relationships that are mutualistic don't appear to fit the definition of symbiotic. Some relationships are clearly mutualistic and symbiotic (humans and gut flora, for example) but other relationships (like bees pollinating flowers) are mutualistic but don't appear to fit the definition of "close and often long-term interaction". The same of course goes for parasitic, ammensalistic, etc. relationships as well.

Thoughts, anyone?

  • $\begingroup$ please, rephrase your question in more succinct forma than "Thoughts, anyone?" $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Apr 30 '15 at 17:15

TL;DR: mutualistic/parasitic relationships are members of symbiotic relationships class

So, first of all, there is a way to look it up.

Secondly, the very same article in wiki has subsection on parasitism. Reading it would be useful:

This is also known as antagonistic or antipathetic symbiosis.

Also, brief search through Google Scholar will show how these words are used in context. papers include such as:

  1. Fungal symbiosis from mutualism to parasitism: who controls the outcome, host or invader?
  2. Mutualism and parasitism: the yin and yang of plant symbioses
  3. Mutualism or parasitism? The variable outcome of cleaning symbioses
  4. Enhanced growth as a manifestation of parasitism and shell deposition in parasitized mollusks. Aspects of the biology of symbiosis.
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Now that I think more about it, it seems to me that all parasitisms do involve that close and long-term interaction, but I'm still not sold that all mutualisms fit the given definition of symbioses. What I'm asking about is whether an interaction that is mutually beneficial (like bees pollinating flowers) but doesn't actually involve "a close (physically) interaction" should really be considered a symbiosis. Perhaps that definition of symbiosis is incomplete? Or maybe the brief interaction between the bees and the flowers is enough for it to qualify as "close"? $\endgroup$ – C_Z_ Apr 30 '15 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by "brief"? they won't live without each other, that is close enough for my taste. Again, these is how terms are used in specific field. Only reason to redefine them is discovery of a counter-example. $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Apr 30 '15 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Brief as in the amount of time the bee is in physical contact with the flower is a short amount of time, compared to the lifespan of the bee and the flower, in contrast to gut flora, where the bacteria and the human are in physical contact for the entire duration of both organism's lives. It is, I suppose, not close enough for my taste, which is why I wanted to ask for some other opinions. I'll admit it's not the most exciting of questions. $\endgroup$ – C_Z_ Apr 30 '15 at 20:59

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