Main Difference – Ectoparasite vs Endoparasite
Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship between two species in an ecosystem. The parasite benefits at the expense of the host. Generally, parasites are visible to the naked eye. Ectoparasite and endoparasite are two types of parasites categorized based on their habitat. The main difference between ectoparasite and endoparasite is that ectoparasite lives on the surface of the host whereas endoparasite lives inside the body of the host. Thus, ectoparasites can be either hemiparasites or holoparasites. However, endoparasites are holoparasites. The respiration of ectoparasites is aerobic while respiration of endoparasites is anaerobic. Mosquito, leech, mite, flea, tick, and louse are ectoparasites. Worms such as roundworms, tapeworms, and trematodes and protozoans such as Plasmodium and amoeba are endoparasites.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is an Ectoparasite
– Definition, Features, Examples
2. What is an Endoparasite
– Definition, Features, Examples
3. What are the Similarities Between Ectoparasite and Endoparasite
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Ectoparasite and Endoparasite
– Comparison of Key Differences
Key Terms: Ectoparasite, Endoparasite, Host, Parasite, Parasitism, Protozoans, Worms
What is an Ectoparasite
Ectoparasites refer to a parasite that lives on its host. They cause infestations in humans as well as in many kinds of domestic animals such as livestock, poultry, pets, fish, bees, and laboratory animals. Most ectoparasites such as lice are host-specific while the others have a wide range of hosts. Most invertebrates such as arthropods, insects and arachnids are ectoparasites of domestic animals while crustaceans are ectoparasites of fish. A soft tick is shown in figure 1.
Some ectoparasites serve as vectors of pathogens. Pathogens transmit while feeding or defecating. However, ectoparasites in large aggregations may cause anemia, detrimental immune reactions (hypersensitivity, anaphylaxis, etc.), dermatitis, skin necrosis, irritability, low weight gains, focal hemorrhages, blockage of orifices, exsanguination, secondary infection or inoculation of toxins. In spite of that, most ectoparasites cause little or no harm to the host. Arachnids such as mites, soft ticks, and hard ticks, insects such as lice, flies, mosquitos, fleas, bugs, and blow flies are ectoparasites. Some Isopoda and Branchiura are endoparasitic crustaceans.
What is an Endoparasite
Endoparasite refers to a parasite that lives inside its host. Most endoparasites are intestinal, i.e., they live inside the host’s intestine. Nematodes such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are intestinal endoparasites. Trematodes such as flukes and cestodes like tapeworms are endoparasites that live in the intestine of the host. Eyeworms, heartworms, lungworms, and subcutaneous worms such as threadworms and esophageal worms are non-intestinal worms. Intestinal endoparasites take nutrients from the intestine of the host. Non-intestinal endoparasites take nutrients from body fluids such as blood. An ectoparasite that lives inside blood vessels is shown in figure 2.
Some ectoparasites live inside the cells of the host. They are called intracellular parasites. Another type of endoparasites called intercellular parasites live outside the cells of the host. Protozoa, bacteria, and viruses are intracellular parasites. Intracellular parasites are typically pathogenic.
Similarities Between Ectoparasite and Endoparasite
- Ectoparasite and endoparsite are two types of parasites.
- Both ectoparasite and endoparasite benefit at the expense of the host.
- Some ectoparasites and endoparasites completely depend on the host for their nutrition.
- Both endoparasites and ectoparasites bear structural specializations, facilitating their life as a parasite.
Difference Between Ectoparasite and Endoparasite
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasite refer to a parasite that lives on its host.
Endoparasite: Endoparasite refers to a parasite that lives inside its host.
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasites live on the surface of the host.
Endoparasite: Endoparasites live inside the host.
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasites are temporary, intermittent or permanent.
Endoparsite: Endoparasites are permanent parasites inside the host.
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasites are either hemiparasites or holoparsites.
Endoparsite: Endoparasites are holoparasites.
Type of Respiration
Ectoparasite: The respiration of ectoparasites is aerobic.
Endoparasite: The respiration of endoparasites is anaerobic.
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasites lack wings.
Endoparsite: Endoparasites lack digestive tracts.
Ectoparasite: Ectoparasites cause less damage to the host.
Endoparasite: Endoparasite may even cause the death of the host.
Ectoparasite: Mosquito, leech, mite, flea, tick, and louse are ectoparasites.
Endoparasite: Worms such as roundworms, tapeworms, and trematodes and protozoans such as Plasmodium and Amoeba are endoparasites.
Ectoparasite and endoparasite are the two types of parasites that benefit at the expense of the host. Ectoparasites live on the host while endoparasites live inside the host. The main difference between ectoparasite and endoparasite is their type of habitat.
1. Hopla, C E, et al. “Ectoparasites and classification.” Revue scientifique et technique (International Office of Epizootics)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 1994, Available here.
2. “Ectoparasites – Parasite Groups.” Merial, Available here.