NCEAS Project 6060

Understanding the role of infectious disease in mammalian mating and social systems (Extended)

  • Sonia Altizer
  • Charles L. Nunn

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group1st—7th May 2003Participant List  

This meeting will focus on (1) integrating the various datasets that are being compiled by individual members of the group, which is necessary for distributing these data over the WWW, (2) finalizing statistical results that are being conducted currently by individuals or subgroups of the working group, and (3) finishing manuscripts that are co-authored by three or more members of the working group. We have made great progress on compiling records of parasites and infectious diseases in over 100 species of wild primates, with the first round of results from our analyses nearly finalized. In addition to examining the effects of host social and mating behavior, two interesting patterns that have emerged in repeated comparative tests are the importance of host density and host diversification rates in explaining parasite community diversity within species. Members of our working group have begun compiling similar data on carnivores and ungulates, while others are building databases of parasite species traits (including host specificity and transmission mode). We have already produced four published (or in press) papers that acknowledge NCEAS support, initiated a second effort to collaborate with Conservation International in applying these data to conservation issues, and received NSF funds to support components of this project that lie outside the realm of NCEAS funding. At this stage, the bulk of our remaining research can be accomplished individually and within subgroups over email. However, a final meeting is necessary to integrate these currently independent datasets and spearhead our efforts to disseminate the data and results over the WWW and through journal publications. Merging multiple datasets on hosts and parasites requires the expertise of both veterinary parasitologists and comparative biologists examining the data simultaneously. At the meeting in June, 2003, we would also like to work with Mark Schildhauer to develop a format for data presentation over the WWW. Moreover, during the past two meetings theoreticians in our group have developed an innovative individual-based model for varying social and mating systems to examine the consequences for the spread and evolution of infectious disease. The conceptual framework for this model required three full meetings to develop, and was surprisingly advanced by input from nearly everyone in the working group. Because this model will be coded and tested during the next 10 months, it will be essential to obtain feedback and criticism from behavioral ecologists and parasite specialists following their initial series of simulations.