Undisciplined: Save The Parasites

Sep 24, 2020

The temnocephalida, one of the world's cutest parasites.
Credit Western Australian Museum

We can’t save every plant and animal that we’ve put into danger. But we know from experience that we can have a big effect on the ones we choose to protect. So, make a list. Which ones do you want to save? Pandas? Elephants? Bald eagles? How about parasites? Yeah… parasites. This week, we’ll be making a case for saving creatures that most people really don’t like.

Ecologists have long lamented that we don’t offer the same efforts on behalf of other life forms. Birds and reptiles and fish and trees just don’t get the same sort of attention. 

An international group of scientists has sounded the alarm about a group of life forms that gets almost no love from the conservation movement. In a recent paper in the journal Biological Conservation, they’ve called for an ambitious conservation plan for parasites.

The authors of the paper say that a lot of parasites are in trouble, and that means we are in trouble, too, because parasites play a hugely important ecological role.

Among the authors of that paper is Skylar Hopkins, an assistant professor of ecology at North Carolina State University who has helped build a plan intended to advance parasite biodiversity conservation.