Conservation implications of parasite co-reintroduction

Conservation Biology 29, no 2 (April 2015): 602-605.

Parasites with a high degree of host specificity may have extinction rates similar to their avian and mammalian hosts thus warrant attention from conservation biologists. During reintroduction and other translocation projects, typically little thought has been given to whether or not a parasite on an animal destined for reintroduction was historically found in the release area. This short diversity piece presents cases in which ectoparasites, which are parasites living on the external body surface of a host, have been or could be reintroduced along with their hosts. Short discussions of the historical reintroductions of the European beaver and European bison reveal how unrecognized symbiotic reintroductions might happen. In other cases such as the black-footed ferret and California condor, species-specific ectoparasites are believed to have gone extinct during host reintroduction processes. Ongoing reintroduction efforts, including the Iberian lynx, are suggested as potential co-reintroductions of both host and parasite. I argue that these co-reintroductions are critical to recognize and plan for in translocation projects in order to maintain biodiversity.

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Covered in the media by Emma Marris, Save the parasites! Slate, 20 November 2014.

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