Portrait O SOtto E. Seppälä


Present position:

Professor, Head of Research Institute
Head of working group "Aquatic Evolutionary Ecology"

Research area:

Host-parasite interactions


+43 512 507-50207
+43 512 507-50299

photo credit: EAWAG

Employment History · Research · Staff · Projects · Teaching · Publications

Employment History

  • March 2021 - present: Head of the Research Department for Limnology, Mondsee, University of Innsbruck

  • Jul 2019-present: Professor at the Research Department for Limnology, Mondsee, University of Innsbruck

  • 2010–Jul 2019: Senior assistant (Oberassistant), Eawag / ETH Zürich, Switzerland and Adjunct Professor (Docent), University of Jyväskylä, Finland (teaching skills: excellent, evaluated by the faculty)

  • 2007-2009: Post-doctoral researcher, Eawag / ETH Zürich, Switzerland

  • 2006-2007: Post-doctoral researcher, University of Jyväskylä, Finland"
  • 2005: PhD, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (thesis awarded with the highest grade "approved with honours")

  • 2002: MSc, University of Jyväskylä, Finland



Current main research interests

  • Host-parasite interactions in variable environments
  • Interactions among coinfecting parasites
  • Natural selection on immune defence traits
  • Host manipulation by parasites


Thomas Scheuerl, PostDoc

Katri Sepplälä, technical assistant (part time)

Veronika Stabauer, technical assistant



Sensitivity of eDNA detection of cercaria dermatitis pathogens in Upper Austrian lakes
co-operation partner together with with the Natural History Museum Vienna (lead) and the Department of Water Management of Upper Austria (ABOL)
Cercariae are infectious larvae of trematods, which develop in snails and, after hatching, infect other intermediate hosts or the final hosts. Certain cercariae (e.g. Trichobilharzia species) can cause cercaria dermatitis, also called swimmer´s itch. The pilot study carried out in 2019 for the detection of cercaria dermatitis pathogens in Upper Austria bathing lakes by means of DNA barcoding was used to develop the basis for the genetic detection of cercariae dermatitis pathogens using the DNA barcoding approach. In the follow-up project 2020, the primers for the detection of Trichobilharzia species and thus the detection of pathogens in water samples (eDNA) are to be optimized. In addition, the temporal and spatial sensitivity of the method should be examined and DNA barcodes generated from new species.

Contact persons: Nikolaus Szucsich, Elisabeth Haring (NHM Vienna)
Collaborators: Hubert Blatterer, Hans-Peter Grasser, Wolfgang Heinisch, Florian Billinger (Department of Water Management of Upper Austria), Nikolaus Helmer, Christoph Hörweg, Helmut Sattmann, Luise Kruckenhauser, Michael Duda, Susanne Reier (NHM Vienna), Otto Seppälä, Petr Horak (Charles University in Prague), Jana Bulantová (Charles University in Prague)


Evolution of immune defence traits
Immune defence is the main physiological barrier against parasites. Its evolution, however, is difficult to predict since the form and strength of natural selection on quantitative components of immune function are generally poorly understood. We examine the form and strength of natural selection on immune defence traits of a freshwater snail (Lymnaea stagnalis), focusing on variation in selection over space and time, variation in selection imposed by different parasites, and the relative importance of immune traits in determining susceptibility. We do this both at phenotypic and gene expression level. Additionally, we investigate the evolutionary potential of immune system by examining the genetic variation in and architecture of immune traits.
Contact persons: Teo Cereghetti, Cansu Cetin, Rosina Beer, Otto Seppälä
Collaborators: Philine Feulner, Coen Adema

Responses and adaptation to environmental stress
In nature, organisms are typically exposed to various environmental stressors. These stressors can be natural or induced by human activities. In this project, we investigate the responses and adaptation of a freshwater snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) to multiple stressors imposed by global change (climate change, chemical pollution) and natural enemies (parasites, predators). Our main focus is in stress interactions, their long-term consequences for life-history and defence traits, and evolutionary adaptation of snails to stress.
Contact persons: Tiina Salo, Elia Schmitter, Otto Seppälä
Collaborators: Katja Räsänen, Christian Stamm, Francis Burdon

Interactions among co-infecting parasites
Host individuals are often simultaneously infected with multiple parasite species and genotypes. Co-infecting parasites can interact, which affects their fitness. Interactions among parasites are expected to modify host-parasite ecology and evolution, but these questions are usually not examined considering the variation in interactions between different combinations of co-infecting parasite genotypes. We examine the interactions between trematode parasites, focusing especially on the genetic specificity of these interactions.
Contact person: Otto Seppälä
Collaborators: Jukka Jokela, Curt Lively



under construction





  • Seppälä O., Walser J.C., Cereghetti T., Seppälä K., Saalo T., Adema C.M. (2021). Transcriptome profiling of Lymnaea stagnalis (Gastropoda) for ecoimmunological research. BMC Genomics 22: 144, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07428-1

  • Seppälä O., Lively C.M., Jokela J. (online first). Coinfecting parasites can modify fluctuating selection dynamics in host-parasite coevolution. Ecology and Evolution, doi: 10.1002/ece3.6373


  • Blasco-Costa I., Seppälä K., Feijen F., Zajac N., Klappert K., Jokela J. (2020). A new species of Atriophallophorus Deblock & Rosé, 1964 (Trematoda: Microphallidae) described from in vitro-grown adults and metacercariae from Potamopyrgus antipodarum (Gray, 1843)(Mollusca: Tateidae), Journal of Helminthology 94:1-15, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022149X19000993


  • Leicht K., Seppälä, O. (2019). Direct and transgenerational effects of an experimental heatwave on early life stages in a freshwater snail. Freshwater Biology 64:2131-2140, doi: 10.1111/fwb.13401

  • Salo T., Kropf T., Burdon F.J., Seppälä O. (2019). Diurnal variation around an optimum and near-critically high temperature does not alter the performance of an ecothermic aquatic grazer, Ecology and Evolution 9:11695-11706, doi: 10.1002/ece3.5666

  • Leicht K., Jokela J., Seppälä O. (2019). Inbreeding does not alter the response to an experimental heat wave in a freshwater snail. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0220669, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.022066


  • Salo T., Räsänen K., Stamm C., Burdon F.J., Seppälä O. (2018). Simultaneous exposure to a pulsed and a prolonged anthropogenic stressor can alter consumer multifunctionality. Oikos 127: 1437-1448.

  • Langeloh L., Seppälä O. (2018). Relative importance of chemical attractiveness to parasites for susceptibility to trematode infection. Ecology and Evolution 8: 8921-8929.


  • Salo T., Stamm C., Burdon F.J., Räsänen K., Seppälä O. (2017). Resilience to heat waves in the aquatic snail Lymnaea stagnalis: additive and interactive effects with micropollutants. Freshwater Biology 62: 1831-1846.

    Leicht K., Seppälä K., Seppälä O. (2017). Potential for adaptation to climate change: family-level variation in fitness-related traits and their responses to heat waves in a snail population. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17, 140.

    Langeloh L., Behrmann-Godel J., Seppälä O. (2017). Natural selection on immune defense: a field experiment. Evolution 71: 227-237.

full list of publications


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