The research, published this week in the journal Science, includes parasites in a comprehensive study of ecosystems. By doing so, the scientists say they have revealed new ecological rules.
This parasitic isopod, which is related to rolley pollies, is one of the larger parasites encountered by the researchers in the estuaries. The isopod is almost one centimeter long, and was found infecting a crab, which it had "parasitically castrated," completely blocking the host's reproduction. Credit: Ryan Hechinger
"The major finding of our research is that all types of animals –– parasites or otherwise –– appear to follow exactly the same rule for how common they are," said Ryan Hechinger, lead author and associate research biologist with the Marine Science Institute at UCSB.
"This includes birds, fishes, insects, crabs, clams, and all the parasites that live inside and on them," said Hechinger. "They all seem to follow the same rule. And the rule is simple. You can predict how common an animal is just by knowing how big an individual is and how high in the food chain it is."
The data were collected at three estuaries in Southern California and Baja California. The researchers counted and weighed parasites and other animals before documenting that parasites were indeed less common than other small animals.
"Paying attention to parasites was central to the study," said co-author Armand Kuris, professor of zoology at UCSB. "Parasites are at least half of all biodiversity. And they are different in some very basic ways than other life forms. However, ecological science usually ignores them. How can we possibly understand how life works if we don't look at half of the species –– the parasites?
"If this rule is general, it means an aphid population can produce the same amount of biomass as a deer population," said Lafferty. "Furthermore, tapeworms that feed on the deer population produce less biomass than the deer, but can produce the same as a mountain lion population that also feeds on the deer."
"Predicting animal abundance is one of the most basic and useful things ecological science can provide for management and basic research," said Hechinger. "This simple rule helps with that because it may apply to all life forms and can easily be applied to complex ecosystems in the real world."
Additional co-authors include Andy Dobson of Princeton University and the Santa Fe Institute, and James Brown of the University of New Mexico.
The research was partly funded by the joint National Science Foundation-National Institutes of Health's Ecology of Infectious Diseases program.
Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy