1. Seasonality of rainfall can exert a strong influence on animal condition and on host-parasite interactions. The body condition of ruminants fluctuates seasonally in response to changes in energy requirements, foraging patterns and resource availability, and seasonal variation in parasite infections may further alter ruminant body condition.
2. This study disentangles effects of rainfall and gastrointestinal parasite infections on springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) body condition and determines how these factors vary among demographic groups.
3. Using data from four years and three study areas, we investigated i) the influence of rainfall variation, demographic factors and parasite interactions on parasite prevalence or infection intensity, ii) whether parasitism or rainfall is a more important predictor of springbok body condition and iii) how parasitism and condition vary among study areas along a rainfall gradient.
4. We found that increased parasite intensity is associated with reduced body condition only for adult females. For all other demographic groups, body condition was significantly related to prior rainfall and not to parasitism. Rainfall lagged by two months had a positive effect on body condition.
5. Adult females showed evidence of a “periparturient rise” in parasite intensity, and had higher parasite intensity and lower body condition than adult males after parturition and during early lactation. After juveniles were weaned, adult females had lower parasite intensity than adult males. Sex differences in parasitism and condition may be due to differences between adult females and males in the seasonal timing of reproductive effort and its effects on host immunity, as well as documented sex differences in vulnerability to predation.
6. Our results highlight that parasites and the environment can synergistically affect host populations, but that these interactions might be masked by their interwoven relationships, their differential impacts on demographic groups, and the different time scales at which they operate.
Bovidae; Eimeria; endoparasites; Etosha National Park, Namibia; Strongylida; Strongyloides
An approach to modelling food web biomass flows among live and dead compartments within and among species is formulated using metaphysiological principles that characterise population growth in terms of basal metabolism, feeding, senescence and exploitation. This leads to a unified approach to modelling interactions among plants, herbivores, carnivores, scavengers, parasites and their resources. Also, dichotomising sessile miners from mobile gatherers of resources, with relevance to feeding and starvation time scales, suggests a new classification scheme involving 10 primary categories of consumer types. These types, in various combinations, rigorously distinguish scavenger from parasite, herbivory from phytophagy and detritivore from decomposer. Application of the approach to particular consumer–resource interactions is demonstrated, culminating in the construction of an anthrax-centred food web model, with parameters applicable to Etosha National Park, Namibia, where deaths of elephants and zebra from the bacterial pathogen, Bacillus anthracis, provide significant subsidies to jackals, vultures and other scavengers.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; Etosha National Park; food web models; host–parasite; jackals; metaphysiological models; plant–herbivore; prey–predator; scavengers
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes are central to vertebrate immune response and are believed to be under balancing selection by pathogens. This hypothesis has been supported by observations of extremely high polymorphism, elevated nonsynonymous to synonymous base pair substitution rates and trans-species polymorphisms at these loci. In equids, the organization and variability of this gene family has been described, however the full extent of diversity and selection is unknown. As selection is not expected to act uniformly on a functional gene, maximum likelihood codon-based models of selection that allow heterogeneity in selection across codon positions can be valuable for examining MHC gene evolution and the molecular basis for species adaptations.
We investigated the evolution of two class II MHC genes of the Equine Lymphocyte Antigen (ELA), DRA and DQA, in the genus Equus with the addition of novel alleles identified in plains zebra (E. quagga, formerly E. burchelli). We found that both genes exhibited a high degree of polymorphism and inter-specific sharing of allele lineages. To our knowledge, DRA allelic diversity was discovered to be higher than has ever been observed in vertebrates. Evidence was also found to support a duplication of the DQA locus. Selection analyses, evaluated in terms of relative rates of nonsynonymous to synonymous mutations (dN/dS) averaged over the gene region, indicated that the majority of codon sites were conserved and under purifying selection (dN
Observations of elevated genetic diversity and trans-species polymorphisms supported the conclusion that balancing selection may be acting on these loci. Furthermore, at the DQA, positive selection was occurring at antigen binding sites, suggesting that a few selected residues may play a significant role in equid immune function. Future studies in natural equid populations will be valuable for understanding the functional significance of the uniquely diverse DRA locus and for elucidating the mechanism maintaining diversity at these MHC loci.
High-resolution animal location data are increasingly available, requiring analytical approaches and statistical tools that can accommodate the temporal structure and transient dynamics (non-stationarity) inherent in natural systems. Traditional analyses often assume uncorrelated or weakly correlated temporal structure in the velocity (net displacement) time series constructed using sequential location data. We propose that frequency and time–frequency domain methods, embodied by Fourier and wavelet transforms, can serve as useful probes in early investigations of animal movement data, stimulating new ecological insight and questions. We introduce a novel movement model with time-varying parameters to study these methods in an animal movement context. Simulation studies show that the spectral signature given by these methods provides a useful approach for statistically detecting and characterizing temporal dependency in animal movement data. In addition, our simulations provide a connection between the spectral signatures observed in empirical data with null hypotheses about expected animal activity. Our analyses also show that there is not a specific one-to-one relationship between the spectral signatures and behavior type and that departures from the anticipated signatures are also informative. Box plots of net displacement arranged by time of day and conditioned on common spectral properties can help interpret the spectral signatures of empirical data. The first case study is based on the movement trajectory of a lion (Panthera leo) that shows several characteristic daily activity sequences, including an active–rest cycle that is correlated with moonlight brightness. A second example based on six pairs of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) illustrates the use of wavelet coherency to show that their movements synchronize when they are within ∼1 km of each other, even when individual movement was best described as an uncorrelated random walk, providing an important spatial baseline of movement synchrony and suggesting that local behavioral cues play a strong role in driving movement patterns. We conclude with a discussion about the role these methods may have in guiding appropriately flexible probabilistic models connecting movement with biotic and abiotic covariates.
African buffalo; animal behavior; lion; movement ecology; Panthera leo; stochastic differential equation; Syncerus caffer; time series analysis
Host-parasite dynamics can be strongly affected by seasonality and age-related host immune responses. We investigated how observed variation in the prevalence and intensity of parasite egg or oocyst shedding in four co-occurring ungulate species may reflect underlying seasonal variation in transmission and host immunity. This study was conducted July 2005–October 2006 in Etosha National Park, Namibia, using indices of parasitism recorded from 1,022 fecal samples collected from plains zebra (Equus quagga), springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and gemsbok (Oryx gazella). The presence and intensity of strongyle nematodes, Strongyloides spp. and Eimeria spp. parasites, were strongly seasonal for most host-parasite combinations, with more hosts infected in the wet season than the dry season. Strongyle intensity in zebra was significantly lower in juveniles than adults, and in springbok hosts, Eimeria spp. intensity was significantly greater in juveniles than adults. These results provide evidence that acquired immunity is less protective against strongyle nematodes than Eimeria spp. infections. The seasonal patterns in parasitism further indicate that the long dry season may limit development and survival of parasite stages in the environment and, as a result, host contact and parasite transmission.
Antidorcas marsupialis; Connochaetes taurinus; Eimeria; Equus quagga; Oryx gazella; parasite intensity; parasite prevalence; Strongylida
Recent developments of automated methods for monitoring animal movement, e.g., global positioning systems (GPS) technology, yield high-resolution spatiotemporal data. To gain insights into the processes creating movement patterns, we present two new techniques for extracting information from these data on repeated visits to a particular site or patch (“recursions”). Identification of such patches and quantification of recursion pathways, when combined with patch-related ecological data, should contribute to our understanding of the habitat requirements of large herbivores, of factors governing their space-use patterns, and their interactions with the ecosystem.
We begin by presenting output from a simple spatial model that simulates movements of large-herbivore groups based on minimal parameters: resource availability and rates of resource recovery after a local depletion. We then present the details of our new techniques of analyses (recursion analysis and circle analysis) and apply them to data generated by our model, as well as two sets of empirical data on movements of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer): the first collected in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and the second in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Our recursion analyses of model outputs provide us with a basis for inferring aspects of the processes governing the production of buffalo recursion patterns, particularly the potential influence of resource recovery rate. Although the focus of our simulations was a comparison of movement patterns produced by different resource recovery rates, we conclude our paper with a comprehensive discussion of how recursion analyses can be used when appropriate ecological data are available to elucidate various factors influencing movement. Inter alia, these include the various limiting and preferred resources, parasites, and topographical and landscape factors.
African buffalo; circular path; Fourier transform; GPS; herbivore foraging; Kruger National Park; South Africa; looping; net displacement; periodogram; resource recovery; Syncerus caffer
The dominant paradigm for modeling the complexities of interacting populations and food webs is a system of coupled ordinary differential equations in which the state of each species, population, or functional trophic group is represented by an aggregated numbers-density or biomass-density variable. Here, using the metaphysiological approach to model consumer-resource interactions, we formulate a two-state paradigm that represents each population or group in a food web in terms of both its quantity and quality.
Methodology and Principal Findings
The formulation includes an allocation function controlling the relative proportion of extracted resources to increasing quantity versus elevating quality. Since lower quality individuals senesce more rapidly than higher quality individuals, an optimal allocation proportion exists and we derive an expression for how this proportion depends on population parameters that determine the senescence rate, the per-capita mortality rate, and the effects of these rates on the dynamics of the quality variable. We demonstrate that oscillations do not arise in our model from quantity-quality interactions alone, but require consumer-resource interactions across trophic levels that can be stabilized through judicious resource allocation strategies. Analysis and simulations provide compelling arguments for the necessity of populations to evolve quality-related dynamics in the form of maternal effects, storage or other appropriate structures. They also indicate that resource allocation switching between investments in abundance versus quality provide a powerful mechanism for promoting the stability of consumer-resource interactions in seasonally forcing environments.
Our simulations show that physiological inefficiencies associated with this switching can be favored by selection due to the diminished exposure of inefficient consumers to strong oscillations associated with the well-known paradox of enrichment. Also our results demonstrate how allocation switching can explain observed growth patterns in experimental microbial cultures and discuss how our formulation can address questions that cannot be answered using the quantity-only paradigms that currently predominate.
Previous studies demonstrate that old-growth forest remnants and vegetation regenerating after anthropogenic disturbance provide habitat for birds in a human modified coastal dune forest landscape in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. However, occurrence does not ensure persistence. Based on a 13-year monitoring database we calculated population trends for 37 bird species and general trends in overall bird density in different vegetation types. We evaluated species' characteristics as covariates of population trend and assessed changes in rainfall and proportional area and survey coverage per vegetation type. 76% of species assessed have declined, 57% significantly so at an average rate of 13.9% per year. Overall, bird density has fallen at 12.2% per year across old-growth forest and woody regenerating vegetation types. Changes in proportional area and coverage per vegetation type may partly explain trends for a few species but are unlikely to account for most. Below average rainfall may have contributed to bird declines. However, other possibilities warrant further investigation. Species with larger range extents tended to decline more sharply than did others, and these species may be responding to environmental changes on a broader geographical scale. Our results cast doubt on the future persistence of birds in this human modified landscape. More research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms driving population decline in the study area and to investigate whether the declines identified here are more widespread across the region and perhaps the continent.
Remotely sensed tracking technology has revealed remarkable migration patterns that were previously unknown; however, models to optimally use such data have developed more slowly. Here, we present a hierarchical Bayes state-space framework that allows us to combine tracking data from a collection of animals and make inferences at both individual and broader levels. We formulate models that allow the navigation ability of animals to be estimated and demonstrate how information can be combined over many animals to allow improved estimation. We also show how formal hypothesis testing regarding navigation ability can easily be accomplished in this framework. Using Argos satellite tracking data from 14 leatherback turtles, 7 males and 7 females, during their southward migration from Nova Scotia, Canada, we find that the circle of confusion (the radius around an animal's location within which it is unable to determine its location precisely) is approximately 96 km. This estimate suggests that the turtles' navigation does not need to be highly accurate, especially if they are able to use more reliable cues as they near their destination. Moreover, for the 14 turtles examined, there is little evidence to suggest that male and female navigation abilities differ. Because of the minimal assumptions made about the movement process, our approach can be used to estimate and compare navigation ability for many migratory species that are able to carry electronic tracking devices.
The goal of this paper is to develop a mathematical model that analyzes the selective advantage of the SOS response in unicellular organisms. To this end, this paper develops a quasispecies model that incorporates the SOS response. We consider a unicellular, asexually replicating population of organisms, whose genomes consist of a single, double-stranded DNA molecule, i.e. one chromosome. We assume that repair of post-replication mismatched base-pairs occurs with probability , and that the SOS response is triggered when the total number of mismatched base-pairs is at least . We further assume that the per-mismatch SOS elimination rate is characterized by a first-order rate constant . For a single fitness peak landscape where the master genome can sustain up to mismatches and remain viable, this model is analytically solvable in the limit of infinite sequence length. The results, which are confirmed by stochastic simulations, indicate that the SOS response does indeed confer a fitness advantage to a population, provided that it is only activated when DNA damage is so extensive that a cell will die if it does not attempt to repair its DNA.
A network structure metric is herein suggested for the investigation of the behaviour of epidemic spreading processes in general network-structured populations. This simple measure, based on the algebraic powers of the adjacency matrix associated with the network in question, is shown to admit a heuristic interpretation as a representation of a spreading process similar to standard epidemic models. It is further shown that the values of this metric may be of use in understanding the dynamic pattern of epidemic spread on networks of greatly varying structural properties (e.g. the degree distribution, the assortativity/dissortativity and the clustering).
network epidemiology; infectious disease modelling; complex networks
Group dynamics of gregarious ungulates in the grasslands of the African savanna have been well studied, but the trade-offs that affect grouping of these ungulates in woodland habitats or dense vegetation are less well understood. We examined the landscape-level distribution of groups of blue wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus, and Burchell's zebra, Equus burchelli, in a predominantly woodland area (Karongwe Game Reserve, South Africa; KGR) to test the hypothesis that group dynamics are a function of minimizing predation risk from their primary predator, lion, Panthera leo.
Using generalized linear models, we examined the relative importance of habitat type (differing in vegetation density), probability of encountering lion (based on utilization distribution of all individual lions in the reserve), and season in predicting group size and composition. We found that only in open scrub habitat, group size for both ungulate species increased with the probability of encountering lion. Group composition differed between the two species and was driven by habitat selection as well as predation risk. For both species, composition of groups was, however, dominated by males in open scrub habitats, irrespective of the probability of encountering lion.
Distribution patterns of wildebeest and zebra groups at the landscape level directly support the theoretical and empirical evidence from a range of taxa predicting that grouping is favored in open habitats and when predation risk is high. Group composition reflected species-specific social, physiological and foraging constraints, as well as the importance of predation risk. Avoidance of high resource open scrub habitat by females can lead to loss of foraging opportunities, which can be particularly costly in areas such as KGR, where this resource is limited. Thus, landscape-level grouping dynamics are species specific and particular to the composition of the group, arising from a tradeoff between maximizing resource selection and minimizing predation risk.
Culling of infected individuals is a widely used measure for the control of several plant and animal pathogens but culling first requires detection of often cryptically-infected hosts. In this paper, we address the problem of how to allocate resources between detection and culling when the budget for disease management is limited. The results are generic but we motivate the problem for the control of a botanical epidemic in a natural ecosystem: sudden oak death in mixed evergreen forests in coastal California, in which species composition is generally dominated by a spreader species (bay laurel) and a second host species (coast live oak) that is an epidemiological dead-end in that it does not transmit infection but which is frequently a target for preservation. Using a combination of an epidemiological model for two host species with a common pathogen together with optimal control theory we address the problem of how to balance the allocation of resources for detection and epidemic control in order to preserve both host species in the ecosystem. Contrary to simple expectations our results show that an intermediate level of detection is optimal. Low levels of detection, characteristic of low effort expended on searching and detection of diseased trees, and high detection levels, exemplified by the deployment of large amounts of resources to identify diseased trees, fail to bring the epidemic under control. Importantly, we show that a slight change in the balance between the resources allocated to detection and those allocated to control may lead to drastic inefficiencies in control strategies. The results hold when quarantine is introduced to reduce the ingress of infected material into the region of interest.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes significant morbidity and mortality in injecting drug users (IDU) worldwide. HCV vaccine candidates have shown promise for reducing the infectivity of acute infection and averting chronic infection, yet the impact of varying levels of vaccine efficacy and vaccine delivery strategies on the HCV epidemic in IDU have not been explored.
We utilized extensive data on injecting behavior collected in the UFO Study of young IDU in San Francisco to construct a stochastic individual-based model that reflects heterogeneous injecting risk behavior, historical HCV trends, and existing information on viral dynamics and vaccine characteristics.
Our modeled HCV rate closely paralleled observed HCV incidence in San Francisco, with estimated incidence of 59% per person year (ppy) early in the epidemic, and 27% ppy after risk reduction was introduced. Chronic HCV infection, the clinically relevant state of HCV infection that leads to liver disease and hepatocellular cancer, was estimated at 22% ppy (±3%) early in the epidemic and 14% ppy (±2%) after risk reduction was introduced. We considered several scenarios, and highlight that a vaccine with 50% to 80% efficacy targeted to high-risk or sero-negative IDU at a high vaccination rate could further reduce chronic HCV incidence in IDU to 2–7% ppy 30 years after its introduction.
Our results underscore the importance of further efforts to develop both HCV vaccines and optimal systems of delivery to IDU populations.
Hepatitis C virus; injecting drug users; dynamic modeling; hepatitis C virus vaccine
The Y-chromosomal diversity in the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) population of Kruger National Park (KNP) is characterized by rainfall-driven haplotype frequency shifts between year cohorts. Stable Y-chromosomal polymorphism is difficult to reconcile with haplotype frequency variations without assuming frequency-dependent selection or specific interactions in the population dynamics of X- and Y-chromosomal genes, since otherwise the fittest haplotype would inevitably sweep to fixation. Stable Y-chromosomal polymorphism due one of these factors only seems possible when there are Y-chromosomal distorters of an equal sex ratio, which act by negatively affecting X-gametes, or Y-chromosomal suppressors of a female-biased sex ratio. These sex-ratio (SR) genes modify (suppress) gamete transmission in their own favour at a fitness cost, allowing for stable polymorphism.
Here we show temporal correlations between Y-chromosomal haplotype frequencies and foetal sex ratios in the KNP buffalo population, suggesting SR genes. Frequencies varied by a factor of five; too high to be alternatively explained by Y-chromosomal effects on pregnancy loss. Sex ratios were male-biased during wet and female-biased during dry periods (male proportion: 0.47-0.53), seasonally and annually. Both wet and dry periods were associated with a specific haplotype indicating a SR distorter and SR suppressor, respectively.
The distinctive properties suggested for explaining Y-chromosomal polymorphism in African buffalo may not be restricted to this species alone. SR genes may play a broader and largely overlooked role in mammalian sex-ratio variation.
All genes critical for plasmid replication regulation are located on the plasmid rather than on the host chromosome. It is possible therefore that there can be copy-up “cheater” mutants. In spite of this possibility, low copy number plasmids appear to exist stably in host populations. We examined this paradox using a multilevel selection model. Simulations showed that, a slightly higher copy number mutant could out-compete the wild type. Consequently, another mutant with still higher copy number could invade the first invader. However, the realized benefit of increasing intra-host fitness was saturating whereas that of inter-host fitness was exponential. As a result, above a threshold, intra-host selection was overcompensated by inter-host selection and the low copy number wild type plasmid could back invade a very high copy number plasmid. This led to a rock-paper-scissor (RPS) like situation that allowed the coexistence of plasmids with varied copy numbers. Furthermore, another type of cheater that had lost the genes required for conjugation but could hitchhike on a conjugal plasmid, could further reduce the advantage of copy-up mutants. These sociobiological interactions may compliment molecular mechanisms of replication regulation in stabilizing the copy numbers.
The tight epidemiological coupling between HIV and its associated opportunistic infections leads to challenges and opportunities for disease surveillance.
We review efforts of WHO and collaborating agencies to track and fight the TB/HIV co-epidemic, and discuss modeling—via mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches—as a means to identify disease indicators designed to integrate data from linked diseases in order to characterize how co-epidemics change in time and space. We present RTB/HIV, an index comparing changes in TB incidence relative to HIV prevalence, and use it to identify those sub-Saharan African countries with outlier TB/HIV dynamics. RTB/HIV can also be used to predict epidemiological trends, investigate the coherency of reported trends, and cross-check the anticipated impact of public health interventions. Identifying the cause(s) responsible for anomalous RTB/HIV values can reveal information crucial to the management of public health.
We frame our suggestions for integrating and analyzing co-epidemic data within the context of global disease monitoring. Used routinely, joint disease indicators such as RTB/HIV could greatly enhance the monitoring and evaluation of public health programs.
What models and statistical tools can best help us assess how ecosystems respond to the impact of multiple factors, such as disease, predation, fire, and rain?
Early theoretical work on disease invasion typically assumed large and well-mixed host populations. Many human and wildlife systems, however, have small groups with limited movement among groups. In these situations, the basic reproductive number, R0, is likely to be a poor predictor of a disease pandemic because it typically does not account for group structure and movement of individuals among groups. We extend recent work by combining the movement of hosts, transmission within groups, recovery from infection and the recruitment of new susceptibles into a stochastic model of disease in a host metapopulation. We focus on how recruitment of susceptibles affects disease invasion and how population structure can affect the frequency of superspreading events (SSEs). We show that the frequency of SSEs may decrease with the reduced movement and the group sizes due to the limited number of susceptible individuals available. Classification tree analysis of the model results illustrates the hierarchical nature of disease invasion in host metapopulations. First, the pathogen must effectively transmit within a group (R0>1), and then the pathogen must persist within a group long enough to allow for movement among the groups. Therefore, the factors affecting disease persistence—such as infectious period, group size and recruitment of new susceptibles—are as important as the local transmission rates in predicting the spread of pathogens across a metapopulation.
disease; invasion; metapopulation; SIR model; superspreader
Sympatric speciation can arise as a result of disruptive selection with assortative mating as a pleiotropic by-product. Studies on host choice, employing artificial neural networks as models for the host recognition system in exploiters, illustrate how disruptive selection on host choice coupled with assortative mating can arise as a consequence of selection for specialization. Our studies demonstrate that a generalist exploiter population can evolve into a guild of specialists with an ‘ideal free’ frequency distribution across hosts. The ideal free distribution arises from variability in host suitability and density-dependent exploiter fitness on different host species. Specialists are less subject to inter-phenotypic competition than generalists and to harmful mutations that are common in generalists exploiting multiple hosts.
When host signals used as cues by exploiters coevolve with exploiter recognition systems, our studies show that evolutionary changes may be continuous and cyclic. Selection changes back and forth between specialization and generalization in the exploiters, and weak and strong mimicry in the hosts, where non-defended hosts use the host investing in defence as a model. Thus, host signals and exploiter responses are engaged in a red-queen mimicry process that is ultimately cyclic rather then directional. In one phase, evolving signals of exploitable hosts mimic those of hosts less suitable for exploitation (i.e. the model). Signals in the model hosts also evolve through selection to escape the mimic and its exploiters. Response saturation constraints in the model hosts lead to the mimic hosts finally perfecting its mimicry, after which specialization in the exploiter guild is lost. This loss of exploiter specialization provides an opportunity for the model hosts to escape their mimics. Therefore, this cycle then repeats.
We suggest that a species can readily evolve sympatrically when disruptive selection for specialization on hosts is the first step. In a sexual reproduction setting, partial reproductive isolation may first evolve by mate choice being confined to individuals on the same host. Secondly, this disruptive selection will favour assortative mate choice on genotype, thereby leading to increased reproductive isolation.
evolution; host; insect; parasite; diet; plant