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Environmental constraints influencing survival of an African parasite in a north temperate habitat: effects of temperature on egg development

  • R. C. TINSLEY (a1), J. E. YORK (a1), A. L. E. EVERARD (a1), L. C. STOTT (a1), S. J. CHAPPLE (a1) and M. C. TINSLEY (a2)...


Factors affecting survival of parasites introduced to new geographical regions include changes in environmental temperature. Protopolystoma xenopodis is a monogenean introduced with the amphibian Xenopus laevis from South Africa to Wales (probably in the 1960s) where low water temperatures impose major constraints on life-cycle processes. Effects were quantified by maintenance of eggs from infections in Wales under controlled conditions at 10, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 25°C. The threshold for egg viability/ development was 15°C. Mean times to hatching were 22 days at 25°C, 32 days at 20°C, extending to 66 days at 15°C. Field temperature records provided calibration of transmission schedules. Although egg production continues year-round, all eggs produced during >8 months/ year die without hatching. Output contributing significantly to transmission is restricted to 10 weeks (May–mid-July). Host infection, beginning after a time lag of 8 weeks for egg development, is also restricted to 10 weeks (July–September). Habitat temperatures (mean 15·5°C in summer 2008) allow only a narrow margin for life-cycle progress: even small temperature increases, predicted with ‘global warming’, enhance infection. This system provides empirical data on the metrics of transmission permitting long-term persistence of isolated parasite populations in limiting environments.


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*Corresponding author: School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK. E-mail:


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