Part 4: Symbiotic relationships are defined as a relationship between two species where at least one party benefits from the other. Parasitism is when one partner benefits from the relationship, but the other partner suffers. Today I want to talk about the prime example of Pokémon Parasitism; Parasect. I would also like to mention Joltik as a potential parasite. For more information on other Symbiotic Relationships in the Pokémon world, have a read about some Mutual or Commensal relationships.
Paras and Parasect
Originally, Paras was a cicada-like bug Pokemon that went about its business as merry as can be. Somewhere along the line, a Paras or a Parasect came in contact with a specific type of mushroom spore, which attached itself to the bug Pokemon. Any eggs produced from the original Paras or Parasect were exposed to these spores, and all resulting offspring were also infected.
The fungus that is attached to Paras sucks nutrients from Paras’s body, but also has some mind-controlling abilities and is able to tell Paras where to go to get more nutrients. The mushroom fully engulfs Parasect and also has complete control over its mind. What makes this a parasitic relationship is that the mushroom slowly sucks the life out of Paras and Parasect, taking over its body until death. Paras and Parasect receive no benefit from the mushroom, but it is not a Commensal relationship because the mushroom is heavily detrimental to the Paras. It is, in essence, a case of ’Till death do we part, where only the Paras will die.
So what is this mushroom? In Japanese, it is called Tohchukaso, but this is really just a blanket term for many types of parasitic fungi. The Latin name for this genus is Cordyceps, and consists of about 400 different species of parasites. They mostly infect insects or other small animals with exoskeletons by replacing the host tissue with their own. This will eventually lead to the death of the insect, but the fungus doesn’t mind because it has plenty of time to produce spores that will infect other insects. The most interesting (or disturbing) thing about these fungi is that, like in the case of Parasect, they are able to alter the biochemistry of the insects brain so much that they can cause it to nestle itself in a prime position (e.g. On a nice fruit tree) where it will wait for its own death. The fungus can then share its spores with fruit that other insects eat, and they will also become infected. It is a seriously morbid relationship, so ultimately we should feel rather sorry for Paras and Parasect.
An infected ant
There is no escaping this fungus, so Paras and Parasect are doomed to a life of mind-control and nutrient loss. Even its name denotes what a sad relationship this is. It is, indeed, an example of Pokemon parasitism.
Joltik is a tiny, 4 inch long electric bug that cannot generate its own electricity. As a result, it attaches itself to larger electric Pokémon (maybe things like Zebstrika) in order to absorb some of their electricity. Now, before I start, I have not read anywhere that explicitly states that Joltik is a parasite, so this is just speculation.
There are a few reasons I think Joltik is a parasite. Firstly, it is based on the real life tick, which is known for attaching to animals (and occasionally humans) and sucking out their blood. The bites can be itchy or painful, and pose absolutely no benefit to the host at all. I have personally had to pull ticks off a dog, once, and there is nothing pleasant about them.
The Pokedex says Joltik “Sticks onto large-bodied Pokémon and absorbs static electricity” (B2). While this doesn’t say the host Pokemon is detrimentally effected, I would assume it is because the Pokemon is based on a tick. Also, because electric Pokemon generate and need their own energy, Joltik is taking it and the host would need to generate more (Unless Joltik only takes a negligible amount). Furthermore, in the episode “Crisis at Chargestone Cave!”, Joltik is shown to be “stealing” electricity from other electric Pokemon because all of the electrically charged stones have been removed from the cave. In this case it is more that the word steal implies the host Pokemon does not what its own electricity to be absorbed by Joltik, suggesting Jotik may be a parasite in this situation.
Of course, with such little evidence, it is also possible that Joltik is actually just in a Commensal relationship with other electric Pokemon, whereby Joltik benefits and the other electric Pokemon remain unaffected. However, it is very difficult to tell in this situation.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned