Encyclopedia of Geobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Joachim Reitner, Volker Thiel


  • Sharmishtha Dattagupta
  • Frank Zielinski
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9212-1_228


A close, prolonged physical and/or metabolic association between two or more distinct organisms.


Most living organisms interact intimately with one or more symbiotic partners that are often vital for their health and survival. Symbiotic organisms are important ecosystem engineers (e.g., corals); they significantly impact biogeochemical cycles (e.g., legumes), and they contribute substantially to geological processes such as rock weathering (e.g., lichens and mycorrhizal fungi). Moreover, symbioses have played a crucial role in the origin and diversification of eukaryotic life.

Important terms and concepts

Symbioses are categorized as being mutualisms, where both organisms involved benefit, commensalisms, where one organism benefits and the other remains unaffected, or parasitisms, where one organism benefits but the other is harmed. When metabolite exchange occurs between symbiotic organisms, it is called syntrophy . Syntrophic interactions among microorganisms...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharmishtha Dattagupta
    • 1
  • Frank Zielinski
    • 2
  1. 1.Courant Research Centre GeobiologyUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Microbiology, Biotrophic Plant-Microbe InteractionsHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)LeipzigGermany