Rapid Evolution of Parasite Resistance in a Warmer Environment : Insights from a Large Scale Field Experiment
2015, Mateos-Gonzalez, Fernando, Sundström, L. Fredrik, Schmid, Marian, Björklund, Mats
Global climate change is expected to have major effects on host-parasite dynamics, with potentially enormous consequences for entire ecosystems. To develop an accurate prognostic framework, theoretical models must be supported by empirical research. We investigated potential changes in host-parasite dynamics between a fish parasite, the eyefluke Diplostomum baeri, and an intermediate host, the European perch Perca fluviatilis, in a large-scale semi-enclosed area in the Baltic Sea, the Biotest Lake, which since 1980 receives heated water from a nuclear power plant. Two sample screenings, in two consecutive years, showed that fish from the warmer Biotest Lake were now less parasitized than fish from the Baltic Sea. These results are contrasting previous screenings performed six years after the temperature change, which showed the inverse situation. An experimental infection, by which perch from both populations were exposed to D. baeri from the Baltic Sea, revealed that perch from the Baltic Sea were successfully infected, while Biotest fish were not. These findings suggest that the elevated temperature may have resulted, among other outcomes, in an extremely rapid evolutionary change through which fish from the experimental Biotest Lake have gained resistance to the parasite. Our results confirm the need to account for both rapid evolutionary adaptation and biotic interactions in predictive models, and highlight the importance of empirical research in order to validate future projections.