2023 Video Spot News/Feature - Gold

Parasites are not particularly loveable. They survive by living off other organisms and have been described as evolutionary cheaters. Some well-known parasites are fleas, ticks, leeches, tapeworms, and mosquitoes. They can infect humans and transmit disease. But Emily Driscoll and Jeffery DelViscio reported that scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the vital role wildlife parasites can play in keeping ecosystems balanced. Many of these hangers-on have been with their hosts for much longer than humans have existed. Lemurs and their parasites, for instance, are thought to have evolved together for the past 60 million years. “It seems odd to think about worrying about parasite extinctions,” says James Herrera, program coordinator at the Duke University Lemur Center. But loss of parasites is a growing concern and “we really just don't know what the effects would be of losing those parasite connections.” Colin Carlson, a global change biologist, said 10 percent of parasites could face extinction from climate change over the next half-century. With many hosts also facing extinction, closer to one in three parasites could disappear, he said. Judge Cathy Edwards, a freelance audio producer formerly with the BBC, said the winning entry “was truly entertaining and original, with a bonus yuck factor. It was a compelling story: how important parasites are to ecosystems, yet how little we know about them.” Michael Werner, a documentary filmmaker, said he was “genuinely captivated” by the video, calling it “a story that’s rarely heard, yet urgently needs to be told.” Driscoll and DelViscio commented: “Sometimes standing up for the ‘little guy’ means finding scientists who champion parasites. It may sound counterintuitive, but the invisible ‘dark matter’ of the living world is just as important to the continuation of that life as animals that play hosts to them.”