Climate change may erase one-third of parasite species by 2070, claims study

11 September 2017, 06:52 PM
The study was conducted on a collection of 20 million parasites (Agency picture)
The study was conducted on a collection of 20 million parasites (Agency picture)

A latest study led by a group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley has found that climate change may erase a third of all parasite species from the face of the Earth by the end of 2070.

Though annihilation of parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, ticks, lice, and fleas will give some people reasons to cheer, according to scientists, they have an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Hence, their removal from Earth may cause a huge imbalance in wildlife and human life-cycle.

The year-long study was conducted on a collection of 20 million parasites held at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of National History in the US and has proved the drawbacks of their absence on the planet.

Talking about their latest findings, published in Science Advances, lead author Colin Carlson said, "It is a staggering number. Parasites seem like one of the most threatened groups on Earth."

"Parasites are obviously a hard sell," said Carlson.

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"Even if you are grossed out by them – and there are obviously downsides for individual hosts and for humans – parasites play a huge role in ecosystems," Carlson stated further.

"If parasites go extinct, we are looking at a potential massive destabilisation of ecosystems [which] could have huge unexpected consequences. That doesn’t necessarily work out well for anyone, wildlife or humans," Carlson added.

"Climate change will make some parasites extinct and make some do better. But we would argue the overall phenomenon is dangerous because extinctions and invasions go hand in hand," the author concluded.

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"As long as there are free-living organisms, there will be parasites. But the picture of parasite biodiversity in 2070 or beyond has the potential to look very different than it does today based on these results," Anna Phillips, the curator of the Smithsonian’s parasite collection was quoted while talking about the same.

First Published: Saturday, September 09, 2017 04:24 PM
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