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Climatic variables are associated with the prevalence of biliary trematodes in otters

Sherrard-Smith, Eleanor, Chadwick, Elizabeth Anna ORCID: and Cable, Joanne ORCID: 2013. Climatic variables are associated with the prevalence of biliary trematodes in otters. International Journal for Parasitology 43 (9) , pp. 729-737. 10.1016/j.ijpara.2013.04.006

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Parasites with complex life cycles are expected to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Knowledge of current associations with weather and host–parasite interactions is therefore essential for the inference of future distributions. The Eurasian otter, Lutra lutra, is exposed to a range of parasites due to its large home range and use of terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. As such, it can act as a sentinel species for generalist parasites. Here we consider two biliary parasites recently reported in the United Kingdom, Pseudamphistomum truncatum and Metorchis albidus (Trematoda, Opisthorchiidae), and ask whether there are associations between abiotic factors (season, temperature, rainfall and the North Atlantic Oscillation) and the prevalence and intensities of these parasites in otters (n = 586). To control for biotic interactions we first examined whether particular sub-groups of the otter population (grouped by sex, age-class and condition) are more prone to infection and whether any damage is associated with the presence of these parasites. Even though mean intensities of the smaller trematode, P. truncatum (28.3 worms/host), were much higher than M. albidus (4.1), both parasite species had similar impacts on the otter. The distributions of parasites on host sexes were similar, but males suffered greater damage and regardless of sex, parasite intensity increased in older hosts. The probability of infection with either parasite was negatively associated with ground frost, minimum temperatures and rainfall, but was positively associated with warm long-term average temperatures. Although it is widely accepted that multiple variables influence parasite distributions, to our knowledge this is one of only a few studies to examine the combined impact of biotic and abiotic variables on parasites with complex life cycles within their wild definitive host. Identifying such associations can give greater accuracy to predictions concerning the distribution and spread of trematodes with future climate change.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
ISSN: 0020-7519
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 11:57

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