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Transmission-relevant behaviours shift with pathogen infection in wild house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus)

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Host individuals who are infected with a pathogen may alter their behaviour in ways that influence transmission. We observed a marked population of house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus (Muller, 1776)) in Ithaca, New York, to test whether individuals change their behaviour at feeding stations when infected with a prevalent bacterial pathogen, Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG). We found that house finches with conjunctival lesions consistent with MG infection fed for longer bouts of time than individuals without conjunctivitis. Furthermore, the same individuals that were observed both with and without conjunctivitis during 3years of study were more likely to feed alone and associated in significantly smaller flocks when conjunctivitis signs were present. These results suggest house finches alter their foraging and social behaviour at feeding stations when visibly infected with MG. Since MG transmission is thought to primarily occur at feeders, these changes in host behaviour likely have important consequences for MG transmission dynamics.

Les hôtes individuels qui sont infectés par un agent pathogène peuvent modifier leur comportement de manière à en affecter la transmission. Nous avons observé une population de roselins familiers (Carpodacus mexicanus (Muller, 1776)) à Ithaca, New York, afin de vérifier si les individus changent leur comportement dans les mangeoires lorsqu’ils sont infectés avec une bactérie pathogène commune, Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG). Les roselins familiers portant des lésions à la conjonctive compatibles avec une infection à MG ont des épisodes alimentaires plus longs que les individus sans conjonctivite. De plus, les mêmes individus, qui ont été observés au cours des 3années de l’étude avec et sans conjonctivite, ont plus tendance à se nourrir en solitaires ou en groupes significativement plus petits lorsqu’ils possèdent des symptômes de conjonctivite. Ces résultats indiquent que les roselins familiers modifient leurs comportements alimentaires et sociaux dans les mangeoires lorsqu’ils sont manifestement infectés au MG. Puisque l’on croit que la transmission de MG se fait principalement aux mangeoires, ces changements de comportement de l’hôte ont vraisemblablement des conséquences importantes sur la dynamique de la transmission de MG.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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