Claim: Climate Change is Going to Kill Off All the Parasites

Memento of last time I did some bush garden work without drenching myself in bug repellent - Ixodes Holocyclus - Australia's Paralysis Tick

Memento of last time I did some bush garden work without drenching myself in bug repellent – Ixodes Holocyclus – Australia’s Paralysis Tick

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Back in 2013 I celebrated that Australia’s unusually hot, dry Summer meant a lower risk of deadly tick bites, but apparently this is now a bad thing.

Climate change could wipe out a third of parasite species, study finds

Parasites such as lice and fleas are crucial to ecosystems, scientists say, and extinctions could lead to unpredictable invasions

Damian Carrington
Thursday 7 September 2017

Climate change could wipe out a third of all parasite species on Earth, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date.

Tapeworms, roundworms, ticks, lice and fleas are feared for the diseases they cause or carry, but scientists warn that they also play a vital role in ecosystems. Major extinctions among parasites could lead to unpredictable invasions of surviving parasites into new areas, affecting wildlife and humans and making a “significant contribution” to the sixth mass extinction already under way on Earth.

The new research, published in Science Advances, used the collection of 20m parasites held at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of National History in the US to map the global distribution of 457 parasites. The scientists then applied a range of climate models and future scenarios and found that the average level of extinctions as habitats become unsuitable for parasites was 10% by 2070, but extinctions rose to a third if the loss of host species was also included.

“Parasites are obviously a hard sell,” said Carlson. “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.” They provide up to 80% of the food web links in ecosystems, he said. Having a wide range of parasites in an ecosystem also means they compete with one another, which can help slow down the spread of diseases.

One example of the complex role parasites can play is a hairworm that lives in grasshoppers in Japan and tends to lead its host to jump into water, where the grasshoppers become a major food source for rare fish. “In some subtle ways, parasites are puppeteers,” Carlson said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/climate-change-could-wipe-out-a-third-of-parasite-species-study-finds

The abstract of the study;

Parasite biodiversity faces extinction and redistribution in a changing climate

Colin J. Carlson, Kevin R. Burgio, Eric R. Dougherty, Anna J. Phillips, Veronica M. Bueno, Christopher F. Clements, Giovanni Castaldo, Tad A. Dallas, Carrie A. Cizauskas, Graeme S. Cumming, Jorge Doña, Nyeema C. Harris, Roger Jovani, Sergey Mironov, Oliver C. Muellerklein, Heather C. Proctor and Wayne M. Getz

Climate change is a well-documented driver of both wildlife extinction and disease emergence, but the negative impacts of climate change on parasite diversity are undocumented. We compiled the most comprehensive spatially explicit data set available for parasites, projected range shifts in a changing climate, and estimated extinction rates for eight major parasite clades. On the basis of 53,133 occurrences capturing the geographic ranges of 457 parasite species, conservative model projections suggest that 5 to 10% of these species are committed to extinction by 2070 from climate-driven habitat loss alone. We find no evidence that parasites with zoonotic potential have a significantly higher potential to gain range in a changing climate, but we do find that ectoparasites (especially ticks) fare disproportionately worse than endoparasites. Accounting for host-driven coextinctions, models predict that up to 30% of parasitic worms are committed to extinction, driven by a combination of direct and indirect pressures. Despite high local extinction rates, parasite richness could still increase by an order of magnitude in some places, because species successfully tracking climate change invade temperate ecosystems and replace native species with unpredictable ecological consequences.

Read more: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/9/e1602422

Sadly I see no long term drop in the number of parasites to support this claim. Many Parasites tend to have rapid life cycles. Many of them also have wide ranges, spanning significant variations in climate. This suggests a substantial ability to adapt to any plausible amount of climate change we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future.

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97 thoughts on “Claim: Climate Change is Going to Kill Off All the Parasites

    • What the? Here in Canada, the statement is global warming is helping the parasites thrive…warm winters (what ever that means) does not kill them off. So how should we interpret this settled science?

      • Actually from the huge amounts of pseudo-science an alarmist crap, I can only surmise that the hype about global warming is not only allowing parasites to thrive, but it also allows the parasites to publish silly study results and continue to make ludicrous pronouncements such as the article in question.

      • I would think that the difference between -25 C and -22C, a warm winter, would be tough for a hibernating parasite to differentiate.
        but I’m no climate scientist……

      • When I lived In the mountains of Colorado they use to show up in the early summer as it warmed then disappear when the temperature started to get too hot for them.

    • Absolutely agree, Roy. I am positive no genuine scientist would stoop to pumping out garbage that takes one line of research & runs it through a filter composed of climate models (otherwise known as “excessively huge computer programs chock full of guesses & fudges”).

      • Cats usually control us by simple transmission of thoughts. When they sit and stare at you, they are pushing their thoughts directly into your mind. But why would they want to make us fret about Global Warming? They like warmth.

      • No its actually the mice.
        They control us through out the galaxy.

        “These creatures you call mice, you see, they are not quite as they appear. They are merely the protrusion into our dimension of vastly hyperintelligent pandimensional beings.”

        ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

      • Well, all silliness aside many parasites lead rather convoluted life cycles and mind control (simple biological control) is actually a functional mechanism. Parasites may begin as eggs that hatch into larva on leaves that are intended to be ingested by one particular host. Subsequently the larva/worms cause the host to perform some bizarre and self destructive behavior like “jump into a stream and expose yourself to predators” or “climb out of the shadows and expose yourself to predators”. The first host then gets ingested by a secondary host where the parasite then subsequently lays its eggs. The secondary host may complete the cycle by laying eggs into the water or depositing them back onto leaves where the cycle begins again, or the cycle may pass through several more transitions and more hosts.
        As long as the cycle remains in the intended hosts most of us are blissfully unaware of the horrors. When humans become involved by becoming a host bad things happen to the human. Such is the case for guinea worms.

      • rocket scientist:
        “As long as the cycle remains in the intended hosts most of us are blissfully unaware of the horrors. When humans become involved by becoming a host bad things happen to the human. Such is the case for guinea worms.”
        Noted.
        It doesn’t look too hot for climate modellers, climate scenarioistas etc., either.
        [NB – not ‘scientists’ . . . .]

        Auto
        Neologisms – sadly – are a speciality.

    • Similar to the silly claim that higher temperatures would make people more aggressive and violent. Didn’t go down well to people in Cairns (North Queensland) that they must be more violent and aggressive than people in Hobart (Tasmania).

      • Umm…….I’ve found the locals in Cairns to be a whole lot more aggressive than those in Hobart. Cairns is a good place not to be along about midnight unless you want to get some MMA practice in.

    • Good one Ric, they are the parasites.
      Also from he article “Parasites such as lice and fleas are crucial to ecosystems, scientists say, and extinctions could lead to unpredictable invasions.” Absolute nonsense. If every Warmunist had fleas, ticks, and lice these kind of stupid ideas would be gone by morning.

  1. “the sixth mass extinction already under way on Earth.” I see climate science is still worshipping at the alter of drama and science fiction. If it’s a mass extinction, where are all the bodies?

    • Yes, “the sixth mass extinction already under way on Earth” gave me a few mental hiccups as well.

      But I bet that Exxon-Mobil and the Koch brothers know where all the bodies are buried.

      (Psst: the altar of science fiction.)

    • this bit also
      { We find no evidence that parasites with zoonotic potential have a significantly higher potential to gain range in a changing climate, }
      now didnt we cop a swathe of stories saying how bad climate change was going to make all those same problems??
      i dont have oldtimers and i DO remember that being one of the many claims

    • But …but ….it’s a s l o w extinction , requiring hundreds of years … err … millions of dollars … pay up NOW !

  2. Let’s apply the usual filter. Quote: Parasites such as lice and fleas are crucial to ecosystems, scientists say, and extinctions could …

    There it is. Not even the first sentence was free of weasel words. Next?

  3. More modelling showing the GIGO that climate ‘scientists’ seem to find essential for their religion, I can’t call it a Profession because professionals have standards they must abide by.

  4. “Climate change is a well-documented driver of both wildlife extinction and disease emergence”

    This is the scariest result of climate change – that these people actually believe this stuff, or claim they do.

  5. This suggests a substantial ability to adapt to any plausible amount of climate change we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future.

    Dang! Just when I got my hopes up!

  6. So many people are ignorant of Earth’s climate phases. During the Triassic period, the Earth was in a hothouse phase, no ice caps, no glaciers at all. Just tropical and temperate zones. Vegetation and animal life flourished. And the carbon dioxide was most likely around 1000ppm.

  7. Any risk to the parasites in D.C., Chicago, Sacramento, etc.?
    I think most here would agree that extinction would be a good thing in their cases.

  8. Climate change is a well-documented driver of both wildlife extinction and disease emergence

    OK, then show us that documentation.

    Models and speculation are not evidence, BTW.

  9. The Eemian interglacial 125,000 years ago was warmer with higher sea levels than at any point in our Holocene interglacial. In between was a 116-year glacial period, with sea level over 400 feet lower than now. Why oh why didn’t the greater warmth and profound cold kill off these fragile mites. Now we are in the coldest 10% of the Holocene interglacial and the little buggers finally are threatened? What do these scientists know that these pests don’t? I’ll hang on to my Raid a while longer.

  10. The real parasites here are Carrington, his Grauniad chums and the 17 authors of this “study”.
    And they all thrive and grow fat feeding on the Climate Change Scam.
    I’m sure it was Willis who hypothesised that the value of a ‘scientific’ paper was inversely proportional to the number of authors.
    Some good evidence right here!

  11. Hasn’t someone (rather a lot of someones, look at all those authors) got the idea of what is ‘A Parasite’ all a bit wrong?

    Without getting links to dictionaries and all but simply put, isn’t a parasite is some critter that takes ‘goodness’ from another critter without being asked/invited and without giving any goodness in return.
    Often returning ‘badness’ in fact but rarely enough to kill. We all know the proverb about ‘killing hosts’
    Thieves and scallywags basically. Nuisances but not all really as bad as they’re cracked up to be

    So that is where out authors here reveal how twee, nice and ultra clean their upbringings were (and their out-and-out selfishness) – by the example they give.
    What is the actual parasite in there – the fish even – as it is the ultimate beneficiary and gives what back?
    Isn’t this a story of symbiosis?

    But of course fishes are ‘nice’ and worms are ‘nasty’ in the politics and thinking of the school playground, the playground that is climate science. Appalling simplifications, cause & effect reversals and rolled into Lord of the Flies words/action.

    (What are their thoughts on ‘flies’ I wonder……)
    Do they have ‘thoughts’ even? They seem endlessly to let others do the thinking – hence the number of authors on this one.
    Just who/what is The Parasite here….

  12. Surely the body temperature of the target species is ambient for parasites. Ticks have a wide range besides. Manitoba has a substantial tick population and it could warm up, 10C in winter (isn’t that the season that does most of the warming – the tropics pretty well stay unchanged.) Why don’t they be more specific where they are talking about and stay on the same page with the team. The tropics I believe has the biggest variety and likely biggest population of parasites. and this region doesn’t change.

    • That was exactly my thought; where’s any proof of that assertion in the claimed 50,000 “occurrences” these gravy trainers conjured up!
      And now how about a real world study of the cost in human and animal/livestock lives lost or debilitated by the worldwide harm and damage done by the collection of bloodsuckers, spreading disease. (Bloodsuckers meaning the insects, but I liked the line about grant parasites).
      The Guardian is just a disgrace these days, to think I used to buy it regularly!

    • Well, the authors allude to the point that even if some of the parasites do disappear the ecological niche they filled (whether we feel it beneficial or not really doesn’t matter) will be subsequently filled by a successor creature. We will only be trading one parasite for another.
      And yes, these lowly creatures do fill a roll in the food chain, but I wonder if the roll couldn’t be played by a less odious life form.

  13. This might be a shocking to many people but parasitism is the dominant way of live by far. Every free living organism is host to a multitude of internal parasites, and feeds occasionally a multitude of external parasites. Even parasites have parasites. Parasitism is an extremely good adaptive strategy. Even among humans parasitism is a strong impulse. Part of the society is always looking for ways to live at the other part expense. It is just natural.

    • I think many of the things you think of as parasites are actually in a symbiotic relationship. I have read that there are about 10 trillion bacteria on a typical person, about 40 lbs of a typical person’s weight, but most of those provide protection of some sort. Bacteria might eat oils in our skin, but their excrement protects us from fungus diseases. We have tons of bacteria in the gut, eating our dead cells, and food, but in return they also break down the food and allow us to get vitamins.

      I think parasites are actually critters that take your food (blood, skin, whatever) and don’t return anything of value.

      • Not really. Parasitism, commensalism, and symbiosis are part of a continuum, where an organism lives at the expense of other, reducing, not changing, or increasing the fitness of the host. But the effect depends on the state and resources of the host. If your immune system is compromised your formerly symbionts will eat you alive. And if resources are low the load of commensalists becomes detrimental.

        For a parasite it is interesting not to reduce too much the fitness of its host, and even better to increase it if possible.

        A bureaucrat that wastes 90% of its time would be considered by most a parasite, even if the other 10% he is doing a useful job.

  14. What is a diagram of any and every food pyramid, with plants etc at the bottom and apex predators like humans at the top, if it is not a description of parasitism? These people really are dipsticks.

    But the bit I liked best was

    “The new research, published in Science Advances,… “

    lol What kind of a journal title is that? It’s up there with Astrobiology.

  15. I did some computational modelling on my Commodore 64 and my research could suggest that ticks in 30 years time are going to be as big as buffaloes, I’d like to leave a link to my work but hey it is a Commodore 64 after all .

  16. “Major extinctions among parasites could lead to unpredictable invasions of surviving parasites into new areas, affecting wildlife and humans and making a “significant contribution” to the sixth mass extinction already under way on Earth.”

    Trump needs to place a travel ban on these foreign ticks immediately ;0)

  17. I think this study is absolutely correct. Why? Because the parasites they’re talking about are actually themselves. In the absence of global warming alarmism these climate fear parasites might just become extinct. Of course there’s lots of other parasites (lawyers and politicians), but our climate fear parasites believe that, uniquely, they’re actually a beneficial parasite species.

    They’re not.

  18. Why are so may scientists evolution deniers? Do they not understand the natural mechanism that allows living organisms to adapt to a changing environment?

  19. Stop kidding. In the next administration such parasites could be used by EPA parasites to block new pipelines, roads, power plants, and other projects.

  20. “Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum…” –de Morgan

    I could name some great fleas that infest our society and Science in particular, sucking the wealth from the rest of us in the cause of World Socialism..

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