A new book chapter for a new year: Evolutionary history of colonial organisms as hosts and parasites

My Estonian colleague and friend Olev Vinn and I have a chapter in the new book The Evolution and Fossil Record of Parasitism. Ours is chapter four on the evolutionary history of colonial organisms as hosts and parasites.

One of the figures (shown above) is of a Cretaceous coral-bivalve system in Israel we published (with Tim Palmer) in 2014 and described in an earlier blog post. It was one of my most enjoyable small projects, so it is fun to see it in a larger context.

The Abstract: Parasitic associations involving colonial animals are fairly evenly distributed through the post-Cambrian Phanerozoic and have a long evolutionary history. Parasitism may have played an important role in the evolution of colonial animals. In the Paleozoic, the majority of marine symbioses involved colonial animals,and it is likely that colonial animals were also important hosts of parasites in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, but further studies are needed. In the Paleozoic, stromatoporoids and corals were the most common hosts to various invertebrate parasites. Corals continued to be important hosts to parasites in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. In addition, colonial animals themselves often infest or otherwise live in association with other organisms and can be parasites; however, colonial animals are more often hosts than parasites, and this has been so throughout the Phanerozoic. The stratigraphic distribution of parasitic associations in colonial animals is divided into two separate blocks: Paleozoic (Ordovician to Permian) parasitic associations of colonial animals form the first block and Mesozoic to Recent parasitic associations of colonial animals form the second block. This division of parasitic associations corresponds well to the Sepkoski Paleozoic and Modern faunas and therefore these subdivisions are termed as the Paleozoic and the Modern parasitic associations of colonial animals.

The book took forever to come out, so there are a few new examples not covered, but our hypotheses about the patterns are clear. If you want a pdf, just let me know by email.


Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2021. Evolutionary history of colonial organisms as hosts and parasites, p. 99-119. In: K. De Baets, J.W. Huntley (eds.), The Evolution and Fossil Record of Parasitism. Topics in Geobiology 50, chapter 4. (https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52233-9_4)

Wilson, M.A., Vinn, O. and Palmer, T.J. 2014. Bivalve borings, bioclaustrations and symbiosis in corals from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of southern Israel. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 414: 243-245.

About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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