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Warming oceans have decimated marine parasites -- but that's not a good thing

marine parasites

The study, published the week of Jan. 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the world's largest and longest dataset of wildlife parasite abundance. It suggests that parasites may be especially vulnerable to a changing climate.

"People generally think that climate change will cause parasites to thrive, that we will see an increase in parasite outbreaks as the world warms," said lead author Chelsea Wood, a UW associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. "For some parasite species that may be true, but parasites depend on hosts, and that makes them particularly vulnerable in a changing world where the fate of hosts is being reshuffled."

While some parasites have a single host species, many parasites travel between host species. Eggs are carried in one host species, the larvae emerge and infect another host and the adult may reach maturity in a third host before laying eggs.