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Ecol Lett. 2014 Apr;17(4):445-53. doi: 10.1111/ele.12244. Epub 2014 Jan 8.

Experimental warming drives a seasonal shift in the timing of host-parasite dynamics with consequences for disease risk.

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Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of Colorado, Ramaley N122, UCB 334, Boulder, CO, 80305, USA.


Multi-species experiments are critical for identifying the mechanisms through which climate change influences population dynamics and community interactions within ecological systems, including infectious diseases. Using a host-parasite system involving freshwater snails, amphibians and trematode parasites, we conducted a year-long, outdoor experiment to evaluate how warming affected net parasite production, the timing of infection and the resultant pathology. Warming of 3 °C caused snail intermediate hosts to release parasites 9 months earlier and increased infected snail mortality by fourfold, leading to decreased overlap between amphibians and parasites. As a result, warming halved amphibian infection loads and reduced pathology by 67%, despite comparable total parasite production across temperature treatments. These results demonstrate that climate-disease theory should be expanded to account for predicted changes in host and parasite phenology, which may often be more important than changes in total parasite output for predicting climate-driven changes in disease risk.


Amphibians; Ribeiroia ondatrae; climate change; community interactions; disease risk; malformations; mismatch; pathology; phenology; seasonality

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