The Ecological Significance of Parasitic Crustaceans

  • Paul C. Sikkel
  • Rachel L. Welicky
Part of the Zoological Monographs book series (ZM, volume 3)


Despite that aquatic parasite diversity and abundance likely surpasses that of terrestrial parasites, our understanding of aquatic parasites lags far behind our knowledge of terrestrial parasites. This is undoubtedly attributable to our being terrestrial primates and the associated logistical challenges of studying most aquatic environments. However, with improving technology that allows for more extended exploration of aquatic environments and the continued maturation of host-parasite ecology and functional biodiversity as fields of inquiry, our understanding of parasitic crustaceans is rapidly extending beyond identification and description of life cycles to describing the role of parasites in ecosystems. Both field and laboratory studies have demonstrated that parasitic organisms play critical roles at the individual, population and community levels. In this chapter, we explore these roles for parasitic isopods and copepods in particular and highlight recent studies that employ current methodologies in ecological research such as molecular and stable isotope analyses. This chapter should demonstrate to readers that there are still far more questions than answers about the role of parasitic Crustacea in aquatic systems, but based on what we know today, we can say they are likely one of the most critical players in aquatic ecosystem dynamics.



We thank the multitude of collaborators, students and volunteers who have assisted with our research over the years, which would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the US National Science Foundation, Puerto Rico Sea Grant, Earthwatch Institute, the Falconwood Corporation, the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the Claude Leon Foundation of South Africa. Many thanks go to the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Andrea M. Quattrini and Amanda W.J. Demopoulos for the images used in Fig. 10.9. We are also extremely grateful to the staff of the field stations where we have conducted our research, including the University of the Virgin Islands MacLean Marine Science Center, Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station, UPRM Isla Magueyes Marine Laboratory, Guana Island, Silliman University Marine Laboratory and Lizard Island Research Station. Finally, we thank the editors of this book and the anonymous reviewers whose critiques and suggestions contributed significantly to the improvement of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul C. Sikkel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rachel L. Welicky
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences ProgramArkansas State UniversityJonesboroUSA
  2. 2.Water Research Group, Unit for Environmental Sciences and ManagementNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  3. 3.School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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