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Parasitism and coastal ecology

Denne side er under udvikling


Approximately half of all living organisms are considered parasitic at least during parts of their life cycle, and hence, parasitism can be viewed as the most successful way of life on planet earth. Traditionally, parasites are expected not to kill their host on which they depend; but in fact they frequently do. Aside from elevated mortality rates, parasites affects their hosts in a multitude of other ways, such as changing growth patterns, behaviour and reproduction. So, through their usually significant impact on the overall performance of host populations, parasites may acts as cryptic determinants of community structure and ultimately ecosystem functioning.

Our research aims at unravelling this cryptic ecological role of parasitism – from impact on host population dynamics over community structure to ecosystem functioning – using mainly coastal trematodes as model system. Usually, these parasitic flatworms have complex life cycles involving a range of distantly related hosts species, and they occur abundantly in coastal habitats leaving few species and few host individuals uninfected.          

How is the ecological role of an ecosystem engineer influenced by parasitism? How is a host community structured with and without parasites? How does parasitism and climate change combine to affect ecosystem functioning? What influence do parasites have on food-web structure, web stability and energy flow? How are the transmission success of the parasites themselves affected by climate variables and ecosystem characteristics?

These are just some of the questions addressed through field surveys, laboratory experiments, out-door mesocosm-experiments and long-term field experiments.   

Contact: Kim Nørgaard Mouritsen