Sunday, 9 September 2012

Stowaways and slipstreaming

The terminology of symbiosis - "mutualism", "parasitism" and "amensualism" - is all very well, but these terms are somewhat technical.

A range of more familiar terms has emerged to describe relationships between symbionts and their hosts - derived from hitchhiking, hijacking, takeovers, partnerships - and the idea of a "trojan horse". Epidemiological terms are also used - such as "epidemic", "virus" and "plague".

Some other possibly-suitable terms are not being employed in this context so much - perhaps most notably, "stowaways" and "slipstreaming".

  • Stowaway - a relatively harmless hitchhiker without the host's awareness or consent;
  • Slipstreaming - gaining benefit from a host rather indirectly.

Both terms refer to types of commensalism.

There's some overlap between these concepts and the established idea of a free rider - however, I think there's some room for some nuanced variations of this basic idea.

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