Differential tolerances to ocean acidification by parasites that share the same host

Ocean acidification (OA) is predicted to cause major changes in marine ecosystem structure and function over the next century, as species-specific tolerances to acidified seawater may alter previously stable relationships between coexisting organisms. Such differential tolerances could affect marine host-parasite associations, as either host or parasite may prove more susceptible to the stressors associated with OA. Despite their important role in many ecological processes, parasites have not been studied in the context of OA. We tested the effects of low pH seawater on the cercariae and, where possible, the metacercariae of four species of marine trematode parasite. Acidified seawater (pH 7.6 and 7.4, 12.5°C) caused a 40 – 60% reduction in cercarial longevity and a 0 – 78% reduction in metacercarial survival. However, the reduction in longevity and survival varied distinctly between parasite taxa, indicating that the effects of reduced pH may be species-specific. These results suggest that OA has the potential to reduce the transmission success of many trematode species, decrease parasite abundance and alter the fundamental regulatory role of multi-host parasites in marine ecosystems.

MacLeod C. D. & Poulin R., in press. Differential tolerances to ocean acidification by parasites that share the same host. International Journal for Parasitology. Article.

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