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Ryan F. Hechinger
Associate Research Biologist
Marine Science Institute
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6150
Office: Marine Biotech (Bldg. 555), Rm. 2004
Research interests
I work to better understand the ecology and evolution of parasites and parasitism, and to use them to enhance general ecological and evolutionary science.

One major facet of this broad goal is to reveal the role of parasites in ecosystems. History and modern ecology tell us that parasites can strongly influence individuals, populations, and communities. Despite this, parasitism is usually ignored in ecological research. Hence, I seek to understand the impacts of parasites on various ecological processes, at big and small scales. An example is our recent documentation of substantial parasite biomass in estuarine food webs.

Another major aspect of my work comes from recognizing that parasites are bona fide species and comprise a massive chunk of biodiversity. Parasites also differ in basic ways from free-living species. Well, it’s a no-brainer that generalizations about life should pertain to most life. So, I consider parasites to test, refine, and buttress our efforts to construct universal schemas that characterize all life. An example of this is our recent work enhancing metabolic-scaling theory to predict the abundance of all species—parasitic or not—in food webs.

I also work to reap the benefits of using parasites and their hosts as tractable study systems to tackle general ecological and evolutionary theory. For example, hosts provide natural, discrete replicates of parasite assemblages. From an ecological standpoint, this can facilitate novel examination of community structure and dynamics. As an example from the evolutionary side of things, parasitic castrators—body-snatcher parasites—can allow uniquely powerful tests concerning the general forces driving adaptive evolution. Another example involves the recent discovery of eusociality in trematodes, which opens the door for novel research dealing with the processes underlying sociality.

Under the umbrella of these large goals concerning parasites and parasitism, I pursue many sorts of questions. I focus quite a bit on community, population, and evolutionary ecological issues. I deal with the metabolic theory of ecology, food webs, phylogeography, biogeography, invasion biology, basic life-history theory, sociobiology, and good ol’ fashioned descriptive parasitology. I also work on directly applied issues, particularly using parasites as ecological indicator tools and as biological control agents.

Concerning study systems, I’m inordinately fond of trematodes, parasitic castrators (body snatcher parasites), and tidal wetlands. To answer questions, I use observations and experiments from the field, lab, and computer, always with a conceptual or quantitative theoretical context and an effort to “keep it real”. Additionally, I work with many excellent people. Concerning students, I’m interested in energetic and enthusiastic students who help either deepen or broaden my expertise. That is, they can work either within or outside my major research topics and study systems.
35. Hopper JV, AM Kuris, J Lorda, SE Simmonds, RF Hechinger (2014)
Reduced parasitism of a marine whelk, Kelletia kelletii, in its expanded geographic range. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12329. article
Press: UCSB release
34. Weinersmith KL, CB Warinner, V Tan, DJ Harris, AB Mora, AM Kuris, KD Lafferty, RF Hechinger (2014)
A Lack of Crowding? Body size does not decrease with density for two behavior-manipulating parasites. Integrative & Comparative Biology. doi: 10.1093/icb/icu081. article
33. Hechinger RF, O Miura (2014)
Two ‘new’ renicolid trematodes (Trematoda: Digenea: Renicolidae) from the California horn snail, Cerithidea californica (Haldeman, 1840) (Gastropoda: Potamididae). Zootaxa. 3784 (5): 559-574. article
32. Lorda J, RH Hechinger, AM Kuris, KD Lafferty (submitted)
Shore crabs affect mortality, behavior, growth, and densities of California horn snails (Cerithidea californica).
31. Hechinger RF (2013)
A metabolic and body-size scaling framework for parasite within-host abundance, biomass, and energy flux. American Naturalist. 182: 234-248. pdf
Press: Science Daily, UCSB release, American Naturalist release
30. Dunne JA, KD Lafferty, AP Dobson, RF Hechinger, AM Kuris, ND Martinez, JP McLaughlin, et al (2013).
Parasites affect food web structure primarily through increased diversity and complexity. PLoS Biology. 11: e1001579. article
Press: PLoS Bio Synopsis by Jon Chase, Science Codex, Science 2.0
29. Thieltges DW, PA Amundsen, RF Hechinger, PTJ Johnson, KD Lafferty, KN Mouritsen, DL Preston, et al (2013).
Parasites as prey in aquatic food webs: implications for predator infection and parasite transmission. Oikos. article
28. Alda P, Bonel N, Hechinger RF, Martorelli SR (2013)
Maritrema orensense and Maritrema bonaerense (Digenea: Microphallidae): descriptions, life cycles, and comparative morphometric analyses. Journal of Parasitology. 99: 218-228. pdf
27. Hechinger RF. 2012.
Faunal survey and identification key for the trematodes (Platyhelminthes: Digenea) infecting Potamopyrgus antipodarum (Gastropoda: Hydrobiidae) as first intermediate host. Zootaxa. 3418: 1-27. article
26. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, and AM Kuris. 2012.
Parasites. Pages 234-247 in JH Brown, RM Sibly, A Kodric-Brown, editors. Metabolic ecology: a scaling approach. John Wiley & Sons, Oxford. pdf
25. Vidal-Martinez, ML Aguirre-Macedo, J McLaughlin, AG Jaramillo, JC Shaw, A James, RF Hechinger, et al. 2012.
Digenean metacercariae of fishes from the lagoon flats of Palmyra Atoll. Journal of Helminthology. 86: 593-509. pdf
24. Miura O, ME Torchin, E Birmingham, DK Jacobs, and RF Hechinger. 2012.
Flying shells: historical dispersal of marine snails across Central America. Proceedings of the Royal Society-B: Biological Sciences. 279: 1061-1067. pdf
Press: Santa Barbara Independent, The New York Times, Discover Magazine, Science Daily
23. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, AP Dobson, JH Brown, and AM Kuris. 2011.
A common scaling rule for the abundance, productivity, and energetics of parasitic and free-living species. Science. 333: 445-448. pdf
Press: Science Daily, ScienceNewsline, UPI, Wall Street Journal
22. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, JP McLaughlin, BL Fredensborg, TC Huspeni, J Lorda, PK Sandhu, JC Shaw, et al. 2011.
Food webs including parasites, biomass, body sizes, and life stages, for three California/Baja California estuaries. Ecology. 92: 791. [data paper] pdf
21. Hechinger RF, AC Wood, and AM Kuris. 2011.
Social organization in a flatworm: trematode parasites form soldier and reproductive castes. Proceedings of the Royal Society-B: Biological Sciences. 278: 656-665. pdf
Press: CBC Radio Interview, Discover Magazine, Discovery News, NBC News, LiveScience, NewScientist (with video)
20. Hechinger RF. 2010.
Mortality affects adaptive allocation to growth and reproduction: field evidence from a guild of body snatchers. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 10: 136. article
19. Shaw JC, RF Hechinger, KD Lafferty, and AM Kuris. 2010.
Ecology of the brain trematode Euhaplorchis californiensis and its host, the California killifish (Fundulus parvipinnis). Journal of Parasitology. 96: 482-490. pdf
18. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, FT Mancini III, RR Warner, and AM Kuris. 2009.
How large is the hand inside the puppet? Ecological and evolutionary effects on the mass of trematode parasitic castrators in their snail host. Evolutionary Ecology. 23: 651-667. pdf
17. Rigby MC, RSK Sharma, RF Hechinger, TR Platt, and JC Weaver. 2008.
Two new species of Camallanus (Nematoda: Camallanidae) from freshwater turtles in Queensland, Australia. Journal of Parasitology. 94: 1364-1370. pdf
16. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, and AM Kuris. 2008.
Diversity increases biomass for trematode parasitic castrators in snails. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 275:2707-2714. pdf
15. Dobson A, KD Lafferty, AM Kuris, RF Hechinger, and W Jetz. 2008.
Homage to Linneaus: How many parasites? How many hosts? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105:11482-11489. pdf
14. Kuris A, RF Hechinger, JC Shaw, KL Whitney, ML Aguirre-Macedo, C Boch, AP Dobson, et al. 2008.
Ecosystem energetic implications of parasite and free-living biomass in three estuaries. Nature. 454:515-518. pdf
Press: Santa Barbara Independent, Discover Magazine, NewScientist
13. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, and AM Kuris. 2008.
Trematodes indicate biodiversity in the Chilean intertidal zone and Lake Tanganyika. Journal of Parasitology. 94:966-968. pdf
12. Hechinger RF. 2007.
Annotated key to the trematode species infecting Batillaria attramentaria (Prosobranchia: Batillariidae) as a first intermediate host. Parasitology International. 56:287-296. pdf
11. Hechinger RF, KD Lafferty, TC Huspeni, A Brooks, and AM Kuris. 2007.
Can parasites be indicators of free-living diversity? Relationships between the species richness and abundance of larval trematodes with that of local fishes and benthos. Oecologia. 151:82-92. pdf
10. Whitney KL, RF Hechinger, AM Kuris, and KD Lafferty. 2007.
Endangered species and parasites: light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes) affects parasite community structure in coastal wetlands. Ecological Applications. 17:1694-1702. pdf
9. Lafferty KD, RF Hechinger, JC Shaw, KL Whitney, and AM Kuris. 2006.
Food webs and parasites in a salt marsh ecosystem. Pages 119-134 in SK Collinge, and C Ray, editors. Disease ecology: community structure and pathogen dynamics. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pdf
8. Miura O, AM Kuris, ME Torchin, RF Hechinger, and S Chiba. 2006.
Parasites alter host phenotype and create a new ecological niche for snail hosts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273:1323-1328. pdf
7. Miura O, ME Torchin, AM Kuris, RF Hechinger, and S Chiba. 2006.
Introduced cryptic species of parasite exhibit different invasion pathways. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:19818-19823. pdf
6. Hechinger RF, and KD Lafferty. 2005.
Host diversity begets parasite diversity: bird final hosts and trematodes in snail intermediate hosts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 272:1059-1066. pdf
5. Huspeni TC, RF Hechinger, and KD Lafferty. 2005.
Trematode parasites as estuarine indicators: opportunities, applications and comparisons with conventional community approaches. Pages 297-314 in S Bortone, editor. Estuarine indicators. CRC Press, Boca Raton. pdf
4. Lafferty KD, RF Hechinger, J Lorda, and L Soler. 2005.
Trematodes associated with mangrove habitat in Puerto Rican salt marshes. Journal of Parasitology 91:697-699. pdf
3. Miura O, AM Kuris, ME Torchin, RF Hechinger, EJ Dunham, and S Chiba. 2005.
Molecular-genetic analyses reveal cryptic species of trematodes in the intertidal gastropod, Batillaria cumingi (Crosse). International Journal for Parasitology 35:793-801. pdf
2. Torchin ME, RF Hechinger, TC Huspeni, KL Whitney, and KD Lafferty. 2005.
The introduced ribbed mussel (Geukensia demissa) in Estero de Punta Banda, Mexico: interactions with the native cord grass, Spartina foliosa. Bioinvasions 7:607-614. pdf
1. Rigby MC, RF Hechinger, and L Stevens. 2002.
Why should parasite resistance be costly? Trends in Parasitology 18:116-120. pdf
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Marine Science Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6150