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Reddit IAmA: Mauricio Seguel on how climate change affects the immune system of wild animals

eLife author Mauricio Seguel will answer questions on his recent study suggesting that warming oceans lead to more fur seal deaths from hookworm infection.
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This month’s Reddit IAmA in collaboration with eLife will bring you Mauricio Seguel, a Postdoctoral Associate looking into the effect of climate change on the immune system of wild animals – most recently South American fur seals.

Based at Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, Athens, US, Mauricio is the first author of a recent study in eLife which suggests that, in warmer ocean temperatures, fur seal pups receive less maternal care and lack an effective immune response against hookworm infections as a result.

Mauricio will be discussing these findings and answering questions about their research more broadly from 6pm GMT (1pm ET), December 12 on Reddit’s r/IAmA platform.

Mauricio Seguel advertises his Reddit IAmA

As a Postdoctoral Associate and veterinary pathologist, Mauricio is interested in all aspects of wildlife diseases. Through the use of pathology, he aims to provide relevant data about specific tissular reactions to pathogens and the role of immunity and natural individual variation in the presentation and severity of diseases. This information is important to understand the role that diseases play in nature, from the molecular to the ecosystem level, and the effect of these diseases on animal, environmental and human health. One of his main career goals is to promote the increase of knowledge in the field of conservation medicine, especially in South America.

South American fur seals
South American fur seals. Credit: Seguel et al.

Mauricio and his group’s recent work involved studying the health and survival of a colony of South American fur seals between 2004–2008 and 2012–2017. Hookworm infection is a major cause of death in fur seal pups. They found that, in years with warmer ocean conditions, their mothers spend more time in the ocean to find fish, meaning their pups grow more slowly, have lower levels of blood glucose and are unable to fight off hookworms as a result. In colder ocean temperatures, however, the pups receive more maternal care and have a more effective immune system that allows them to survive the infection.

It’s hoped that their findings help lay the groundwork for investigating ways to limit the effect of parasitic diseases among fur seals and other marine mammals in the context of a changing climate.

You can read the full eLife paper here, and use the annotation tool to make notes and discuss the work further. A plain-language summary is also available here.

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