Heteroxeny, or heteroxenous development, characterizes a parasite whose development involves several host species.[1] Heteroxeny has been used as the basis for splitting genera.[2]

A dixenous life cycle: the apicomplexan parasitic protist Babesia microti and its two different taxonomic hosts, the deer tick and the white-footed mouse.

When there are two or three hosts, the development cycle is named diheteroxenous or triheteroxenous, respectively. More ambiguously, these terms are sometimes synonymized as dixenous or trixenous.[1]

The etymology of the terms heteroxeny / heteroxenous derives from the two ancient Greek words ἕτερος (héteros), meaning "other, another, different", and ξένος (xénos), meaning "foreign".[3][4]

In mycology, the term heteroecious has also been used for parasitic fungi with multiple hosts, and the terms can be used synonymously.[5]


  1. ^ a b Odening, Klaus (1976-01-20). "Conception and terminology of hosts in parasitology". In Dawes, Ben (ed.). Advances in Parasitology. 14. Academic Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-08-058060-9.
  2. ^ Frenkel, J. K.; Dubey, J. P. (27 March 2000). "The taxonomic importance of obligate heteroxeny: distinction of Hammondia hammondi from Toxoplasma gondii – another opinion" (PDF). Parasitology Research. 86 (10): 783–786. doi:10.1007/s004360000261. PMID 11068808. S2CID 31899029.
  3. ^ Bailly, Anatole (1981-01-01). Abrégé du dictionnaire grec français. Paris: Hachette. ISBN 978-2010035289. OCLC 461974285.
  4. ^ Bailly, Anatole. "Greek-french dictionary online". www.tabularium.be. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  5. ^ Malloch, David (1995). "Fungi with heteroxenous life histories". Canadian Journal of Botany. 73: 1334–1342. doi:10.1139/b95-395.