Saturday, August 31, 2013


 Post # 1
Donald A. Windsor

 On this blog I will publish my ideas about parasites in ecosystems.  Parasitism is a role, or lifestyle, that would seem to be contrary to life, an evil burden that every free-living creature must endure.  Yet instead, it seems that parasitism is a widespread, integral property of life itself.

Understanding biology is impossible without understanding parasitism.  This blog will publish my attempts to do so.  But first, let me present a brief overview of my background in parasitology.

My interest in parasites began as an undergrad taking a class in protozoology. I went on to do my Masters thesis on the facultative parasitic protozoan Tetrahymena limacis. As a grad student I was a research assistant working with the lung fluke Paragonimus kellicotti in rats and cats. My dissertation research used the blood-sucking leech Hirudo medicinalis because it was larger, easier to raise, and could be purchased rather than captured. I was then awarded a predoctoral fellowship by the National Institutes of Health.
Unfortunately, I had to abandon this interesting subject when I left school in 1966. After I retired from Procter & Gamble in 1994, I wondered what had been happening in parasitology during the past 28 years. So I started speed-reading all the parasitology journals that were available in our local university libraries.
Upon completion, about a year and a half later, I was astonished by what I had learned. It could all be summed up in two words: Parasites Rule!
My fast-forward approach gave me a vast overview of an entire field. I had acquired a vision that other parasitologists apparently missed, because they lived it day-by-day, with their noses to the grindstone, each in his/her own tiny niche. The field of parasitology is characterized by tedious labor and narrow focus. Parasitologists can easily miss the big picture.
But not I. I grasped the big picture because of my fast-forward approach. Parasites rule the Earth because they outnumber all other species. Moreover, because parasites, by definition, harm their hosts, they inflict mortality and morbidity upon all other species in an ecosystem. When competition, or predator-prey interactions, or environmental forces cannot regulate free-living species, then parasites step in and take over the management of ecosystems.
Nature not only abhors a vacuum, it also abhors a monoculture. Whenever a monoculture gets too large, diseases, caused by parasites, move in and curtail it.
Had I not been absent from the field of parasitology for three decades, I would never have seen this vision. It was truly a Eureka moment!
Here is a list, in chronological order, of my publications about parasites.

Windsor DA Colpoda steinii and Tetrahymena limacis in several terrestrial pulmonate gastropods collected in Illinois. Journal of Protozoology 1959 Aug; 6(Suppl): 33 #135.
Windsor DA Studies on the in vitro biology of Tetrahymena limacis. MS Thesis, Department of Zoology, University of Illinois, Urbana. 1960. 87 pages.
Windsor DA Morphological changes exhibited by Tetrahymena limacis upon isolation from three newly discovered hosts. Journal of Protozoology 1960; 7(Suppl): 111.
Kruidenier FJ ; Windsor DA Pigment of Paragonimus kellicotti Ward, 1908. Journal of Parasitology 1964; 50(Suppl): 53 #129.
Kruidenier FJ ; Windsor DA The development of Paragonimus kellicotti Ward, 1908. In: Corradetti A, Editor Proceedings of the First International Congress of Parasitology. (Rome, Sep 21-26, 1964) Pergamon Press, NY. 1966. 2: 825-6.
Windsor DA Heavenly hosts. ["Equal rights for parasites!"] Nature 1990 Nov 8; 348(6297): 104.
Windsor DA Guest Editorial. Equal rights for parasites. Conservation Biology 1995 Feb; 9(1): 1-2.
Windsor DA Endangered interrelationships; the ecological cost of parasites lost. Wild Earth 1995-96 Winter; 5(4): 78-83.
Windsor DA Stand up for parasites. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 1997 Jan; 12(1): 32.
Windsor DA Equal rights for parasites. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 1997 Winter; 40(2): 222-229.
Windsor DA From pearls to perils - the imperiled freshwater clams. Wild Earth 1997 Spring; 7(1): 31-35.
Windsor DA The basic unit of evolution is the host-symbiont "biocartel". Evolutionary Theory 1997 Aug; 11(4): 275.
Windsor DA Equal rights for parasites. BioScience 1998 Apr; 48(4):244.
Windsor DA Most of the species on Earth are parasites. International Journal for Parasitology 1998 December; 28(12): 1939-1941.
Windsor DA. Are all mass invasions alike? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 2000 June; 15(6): 248-249.
Windsor DA Spraying wrong way to curb West Nile Virus. Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) 2000 September 6 Wednesday; 15(342): 9A.
Windsor DA Disease, trees, and monopolies. Communicator (Three Rivers Project of the Heartland Bioregion) 2001 May; 9(10): 2.
Windsor DA Book review of: Zimmer C. Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizzare World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures. NY: Free Press. 2000. 298 pages. Science Books & Films 2001 May-June; 37(3): 106.
Windsor DA Sickamores. Communicator (Three Rivers Project of the Heartland Bioregion) 2001 July; 10(1): 2.
Windsor DA Bluebird trails = pathogen pathways. New York Birders 2003 January; 32(1)(135): 9.
Windsor DA Parasites rule. New Scientist 2004 April 24; 182(2444): 32.
Windsor DA Leidy's legacy [Ecological role of anthrax] Natural History 2005 October; 115(8): 10,66.
Windsor D [Symbionts in resurrected extinct mammals.] New Scientist 2009 February 7; 201(2694): 26-27.
Windsor D Microbes on Mars. New Scientist 2013 July 27; 219(2927): 32.