How to use natural history collections to resurrect information on historical parasite abundances


Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

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Many of the most contentious questions that concern the ecology of helminths could be resolved with data on helminth abundance over the past few decades or centuries, but unfortunately these data are rare. A new sub-discipline - the historical ecology of parasitism - is resurrecting long-term data on the abundance of parasites, an advancement facilitated by the use of biological natural history collections. Because the world's museums hold billions of suitable specimens collected over more than a century, these potential parasitological datasets are broad in scope and finely resolved in taxonomic, temporal and spatial dimensions. Here, we set out best practices for the extraction of parasitological information from natural history collections, including how to conceive of a project, how to select specimens, how to engage curators and receive permission for proposed projects, standard operating protocols for dissections and how to manage data. Our hope is that other helminthologists will use this paper as a reference to expand their own research programmes along the dimension of time.

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Journal of Helminthology

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