Sick and tired: sickness behaviour, polyparasitism and food stress in a gregarious mammal

Blersch, R., Bonnell, T.R., Ganswindt, A., Young, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-8919-2093, Barrett, L. and Henzi, S.P., 2021. Sick and tired: sickness behaviour, polyparasitism and food stress in a gregarious mammal. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 75 (12): 169. ISSN 0340-5443

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Although sickness behaviour in response to non-lethal parasites has been documented in wild animals, it remains unclear how social and environmental stress might also shape an animal’s behavioural response to parasitism, nor do we know whether simultaneous infection with more than one parasite changes the way animals respond. Here, we combine physiological, environmental, behavioural and parasite measures to investigate behavioural responses to infection in wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) living in a semi-arid region of South Africa. We quantified both activity budget and behavioural predictability to investigate the occurrence of sickness behaviour and infection with two non-lethal gastrointestinal parasite genera. Higher parasite load was linked to an increase in the time spent resting. However, the nature of the relationship with other behaviours was contingent on both the parasite genus in question and parasite species interacted, highlighting the importance of considering co-infection. Overall, food availability was the dominant predictor of behavioural change suggesting that, for monkeys living in a more extreme environment, coping with ecological stress may override the ability to modulate behaviour in response to other physiological stressors. Our findings provide insight into how animals living in harsh environments find ways to cope with parasite infection, avoidance and transmission.

Item Type: Journal article
Description: This article is a contribution to the Topical Collection Sociality and Disease – Guest Editors: Rebeca Rosengaus, James Traniello, and Theo Bakker
Publication Title: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Creators: Blersch, R., Bonnell, T.R., Ganswindt, A., Young, C., Barrett, L. and Henzi, S.P.
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Date: December 2021
Volume: 75
Number: 12
ISSN: 0340-5443
Rights: Post-prints are subject to Springer Nature re-use terms
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 22 Aug 2022 10:50
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 03:00

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