Identifying parasitic relationships in rays


Published: 01/07/2020

Usually when we think of parasites, we think about parasites, we think of diseases, epidemics, sanitary problems and other negative thinks. Nerveless they don’t mention that they are part of healthy ecosystems and need to be there at a certain quantity; they literally serve as indicators of ecosystem's health.
There are 2 ways in which parasites can help measure ecosystem's health:
  1. If there is lack of them this indicates potential disorders in the food chain, meaning there is no enough food which the parasites could use to infect its hosts, also when there is a lack of parasites this could mean a decline in hosts to infect, meaning that populations of animals in an ecosystem are diminishing. Excess of chemical wastes, pollution and excessive agriculture activity could also cause a decline of parasites meaning there is enormous pressure in the ecosystems.
  2. The other way in which parasites serve as indicators of ecosystem health is if there is an excess of parasites, for instance this could indicate an abnormal and unstable rise in certain species of hosts, indicating that there could be a flop in the food pyramid.
"Ray Sampling".Gianmarco Bettoni with students during ray sampling at South Pacific, Costa Rica
My work at the BIOMOL has been focused on assessing and identifying parasitic populations on rays, sharks and fishes. We conduct field surveys and physical exams focused on collecting parasites; once these samples are collected they will undergo studies at the laboratory which consists of microscope identifying and genetic studies.
The projects focused on these studies at the BIOMOL have given the opportunity for international collaborations and speeches. We currently collaborate with the Marine parasitology and epidemiology laboratory of the University of Antofagasta in Chile and our projects have been presented at the World Veterinary Congress, Wildlife Disease Association Congress-Latin America and the 4th International Workshop on Symbiotic Copepoda in Russia, all during 2019.

manta ray



ecosystem health


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