Meaning of Commensalism

What is Commensalism:

Commensalism is the name given to the biological interaction between two species in which one living being obtains a benefit and the other is neither benefited nor harmed.

This type of interaction between living beings is studied through biology and ecology, in order to understand the various relationships that living beings have and how they benefit from each other.

The word commensalism derives from Latin cum table, which means "sharing the table."

In principle it was customary to use the word commensalism to refer to scavengers, which are those that feed on the remains of food left by other game animals.

For example, hyenas feed on food scraps left by other animals such as lions.

In this case, the lions feed on the hunted animal and the remains they leave behind become food for the hyenas and even other animals.

That is to say, they benefit from hunting and the remains of food left by others, but the hunted animal does not obtain any benefit.

Types of commensalism

Commensalism is not only about the nutritional benefits that one species can obtain from another, it is also about the benefit of transportation, lodging or use of resources.


It is when one species takes advantage of another as a means of transport. Generally, a smaller living being uses a much larger one as transport, which many times does not notice.

The most common example is that of remoras that are hooked to sharks to move from one place to another.

It can also occur between plants and animals. In this case, some plants can spread their seeds through the fur of other animals with which they have had contact.

A dog or cat does not benefit in this case, beyond the fun of the walk in an open and natural space.

Metabiosis or thanatocrecia

It refers to the use of a substance, waste or skeletons of another species, with which an animal can benefit either to protect itself or to feed itself.

For example, hermit crabs protect their bodies in empty snail shells. There are also methanotrophic bacteria that feed on the methane generated by methanogenic archaea.

Another example is dung beetles, which benefit from the feces of other animals.


Ws when a species (plant or animal) shelters or harbors in another, either inside or on it, in order to protect itself. The species that provides refuge, generally, does not obtain any type of benefit.

For example, birds build nests in the high branches of trees both to protect their eggs or young and to protect themselves.

Another case is that of the woodpecker that makes a hole in the trunk of the tree as a shelter.

So do different species of monkeys that live on the branches of trees for the purpose of protection and because their food is precisely on the branches where they live.

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