Parasitic worms that infect fish, and have a devastating effect on fish reproduction, grow four times faster at higher temperatures – providing some of the first evidence that global warming affects the interactions between parasites and their hosts.
The study from the University of Leicester revealed that global warming had the potential to change the balance between parasite and host - with potentially serious implications for fish populations.
The researchers from the University of Leicester's Department of Biology also observed behavioural change in infected fish – suggesting parasites may manipulate host behaviour to make them seek out warmer temperatures.
And they discovered that whilst parasites grew faster in higher temperatures, the host's growth rate slowed.
"What we witnessed was that fish infected with the largest worms showed a preference for warmer water, suggesting that these parasites also manipulate the behaviour of host fish in ways that benefit the parasites by maximizing their growth rates," said Dr Iain Barber of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester, who carried out the study with doctoral student Vicki Macnab.
The research, supported by funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), has been published today in the influential journal Global Change Biology.
Vicki said: "The research shows a dramatic effect of increased environmental temperatures on the growth rates of parasites in fish hosts. The size these parasites attain in their fish hosts determines how severely fish reproduction is affected, so our results suggest that parasite will have a more serious effect on fish reproduction if temperatures rise. In addition, our paper documents behavioural changes in infected fish that suggests the parasites are manipulating host behaviour to make them seek out warmer temperatures, creating a positive feedback mechanism to exacerbate the effects of global warming.
"This research shows that global warming could shift the balance between parasites and their hosts with potentially serious implications for fish populations."
The scientists found that parasitic worms infecting stickleback fish grew four times faster in experimentally infected sticklebacks raised at 20°C than when raised at 15°C.
In contrast, the fish grew more slowly at the higher temperature, suggesting that fish parasites cope with higher temperatures much better than the fish they infect.
Dr Barber said: "The results are important because the size these parasites attain in their fish hosts also determines their infectivity to fish-eating birds like kingfishers and herons – the next hosts in the parasite's life cycle – and also the number of parasite eggs that they will go on to produce. Bigger larval parasites in the fish go on to become larger adult worms in birds, which produce more eggs.
"After the 8 weeks of the study, all of the worms infecting the fish held at 20C were ready to infect fish-eating birds, whereas none of those held at the lower temperature had reached a size at which they were ready to be transmitted."In a follow up study, the authors also showed that fish infected with the largest worms showed a preference for warmer water, suggesting that these parasites also manipulate the behaviour of host fish in ways that benefit the parasites and maximize their growth rates.
For more information, please contact:Dr Iain Barber
Affiliations: Vicki Macnab is a PhD student funded by the BBSRC and Cefas; Dr. Iain Barber is senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester.
About the BBSRC
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk
Cefas is an internationally renowned scientific research and advisory establishment. Operating as an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it has been investigating marine and aquatic environments since 1902. It has two main laboratories, in Lowestoft and Weymouth, and works out of a number of port offices around the English coastline.
Cefas works alongside government and other agencies, both in the UK and internationally, to play a vital role in securing healthy marine and freshwater environments for everyone's well-being, health and prosperity. For more about its work and range of applied marine science, visit: www.cefas.defra.gov.uk
About the Journal
Global Change Biology exists to promote understanding of the interface between all aspects of current environmental change that affects a substantial part of the globe and biological systems. Studies must concern biological systems, regardless of whether they are aquatic or terrestrial, and managed or natural environments. Both biological responses and feedbacks to change are included, and may be considered at any level of organization from molecular to biome. Studies may employ theoretical, modeling, analytical, experimental, observational, and historical approaches and should be exploratory rather than confirmatory. GCB publishes primary research articles, technical advances, research reviews, commentaries and letters.
Journal URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2486
Dr. Iain Barber | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > BBSRC > Biological Science > Change Biology > Environment > Global Change Biology > aquatic environment > biological system > environmental temperature > fish population > freshwater environment > global warming > life cycle > natural environment > synthetic biology > warmer temperatures
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences