Parasites infect the animals and plants we live with and depend on for companionship and food – our pets in the backyard, livestock and crops on our farms, fish in our rivers, lakes and oceans.
Australians are among the most pet-owning people in the world. As a result the pet care industry is worth somewhere in the order of $3 billion per annum. As pet owners we have a responsibility to manage the wellbeing of the animals we care for.
As farmers we want to maximise production of our domestic animals and crops, while minimising the costs of production.
Currently it costs around $300 million a year to control blow flies, bot flies and buffalo flies in sheep, cattle and horses; about $220 million per year to minimise the effect of intestinal worms in sheep; and about $200-300 million per year to control plant parasitic nematodes in crops.
Consider that these are only three examples (probably the most significant) of the dollar costs of control of parasites on our domestic animals and plants. Then consider maintaining health in our aquaculture animals and other animal and plant industries - the costs become substantial.
Parasites are a natural part of the environment and can contribute to natural population control of their hosts. If we tried to eliminate parasites we could then interfere with the dynamic balance in natural ecosystems.
The abundance, diversity and even the identity of parasites in much of our wildlife remains largely unknown. Indeed, many invertebrate animals that act as hosts to parasites are yet to be discovered and named by scientists.
Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.