Oh jeez Defenders...we've got another weird animal article! This one shares a few friends that we learned about on our Blood Suckers page, because here we're gonna talk all about Parasitic Animals, that's right - Parasites! What exactly is a parasite anyway? Well they're definitely not the cute and cuddly types of animals we usually want to live with...but some might be closer than you'd think! A Parasite is an animal or organism that forms a parasitic relationship with another organism - usually called the "host". A parasitic relationship helps the parasite live and grow, but is usually not a very happy relationship for the host. It is a form of Consumer/Resource system because the Parasite is gaining its energy and consuming from the host, with the host being a resource.
Parasites will reproduce faster than their hosts, often leaving their offspring to continue feeding off whatever organism they are attached to. Parasites can be inside an animal like a tapeworm, or on the outside like a flea. There are a few major ways that parasites will attach and feed off of a host, while damaging the host so the parasite and offspring can continue growing:
- Parasitic castration - the parasite blocks the host's ability to reproduce
- Trophically Transmitted Parasite - the parasite is eaten by the host and grows inside
- Vector Transimitted Parasite - the parasite feeds on blood and injects dangerous pathogens in the host, like a mosquito or flea
- Parasitoid Organism - the parasite lives closely with the host, inside or on it, and feeds at the host's expense until the host dies
There are a variety of parasitic animals and organisms that will find their ways to associate with a host to stay alive, while the host is continually damaged. Sometimes this is only a minor nuisance to the host, although very often this can be a very damaging relationship, deeply wounding the host, giving it a disease or ailment, or even being fatal.
Some animals/organisms that are considered parasites would include: