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  1. Abstract

    Seasonal variation in habitat use and animal behavior can alter host contact patterns with potential consequences for pathogen transmission dynamics. The endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) has experienced significant pathogen-induced mortality and continues to be at risk of future epidemics. Prior research has found increased panther movement in Florida’s dry versus wet seasons, which may affect panther population connectivity and seasonally increase potential pathogen transmission. Our objective was to determine if Florida panthers are more spatially connected in dry seasons relative to wet seasons, and test if identified connectivity differences resulted in divergent predicted epidemic dynamics. We leveraged extensive panther telemetry data to construct seasonal panther home range overlap networks over an 11 year period. We tested for differences in network connectivity, and used observed network characteristics to simulate transmission of a broad range of pathogens through dry and wet season networks. We found that panthers were more spatially connected in dry seasons than wet seasons. Further, these differences resulted in a trend toward larger and longer pathogen outbreaks when epidemics were initiated in the dry season. Our results demonstrate that seasonal variation in behavioral patterns—even among largely solitary species—can have substantial impacts on epidemic dynamics.

     
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  2. Ongoing environmental changes alter how natural selection shapes animal migration. Understanding how these changes play out theoretically can be done using evolutionary game theoretic (EGT) approaches, such as looking for evolutionarily stable strategies. Here, we first describe historical patterns of how EGT models have explored different drivers of migration. We find that there are substantial gaps in both the taxa (mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects) and mechanisms (mutualism, interspecific competition) included in past EGT models of migration. Although enemy interactions, including parasites, are increasingly considered in models of animal migration, they remain the least studied of factors for migration considered to date. Furthermore, few papers look at changes in migration in response to perturbations (e.g. climate change, new species interactions). To address this gap, we present a new EGT model to understand how infection with a novel parasite changes host migration. We find three possible outcomes when migrants encounter novel parasites: maintenance of migration (despite the added infection cost), loss of migration (evolutionary shift to residency) or population collapse, depending on the risk and cost of getting infected, and the cost currency. Our work demonstrates how emerging infection can alter animal behaviour such as migration. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Half a century of evolutionary games: a synthesis of theory, application and future directions’. 
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  3. Close contacts between individuals provide opportunities for the transmission of diseases, including COVID-19. While individuals take part in many different types of interactions, including those with classmates, co-workers and household members, it is the conglomeration of all of these interactions that produces the complex social contact network interconnecting individuals across the population. Thus, while an individual might decide their own risk tolerance in response to a threat of infection, the consequences of such decisions are rarely so confined, propagating far beyond any one person. We assess the effect of different population-level risk-tolerance regimes, population structure in the form of age and household-size distributions, and different interaction types on epidemic spread in plausible human contact networks to gain insight into how contact network structure affects pathogen spread through a population. In particular, we find that behavioural changes by vulnerable individuals in isolation are insufficient to reduce those individuals’ infection risk and that population structure can have varied and counteracting effects on epidemic outcomes. The relative impact of each interaction type was contingent on assumptions underlying contact network construction, stressing the importance of empirical validation. Taken together, these results promote a nuanced understanding of disease spread on contact networks, with implications for public health strategies. 
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  4. Abstract Understanding how the movement of individuals affects disease dynamics is critical to accurately predicting and responding to the spread of disease in an increasingly interconnected world. In particular, it is not yet known how movement between patches affects local disease dynamics (e.g., whether pathogen prevalence remains steady or oscillates through time). Considering a set of small, archetypal metapopulations, we find three surprisingly simple patterns emerge in local disease dynamics following the introduction of movement between patches: (1) movement between identical patches with cyclical pathogen prevalence dampens oscillations in the destination while increasing synchrony between patches; (2) when patches differ from one another in the absence of movement, adding movement allows dynamics to propagate between patches, alternatively stabilizing or destabilizing dynamics in the destination based on the dynamics at the origin; and (3) it is easier for movement to induce cyclical dynamics than to induce a steady-state. Considering these archetypal networks (and the patterns they exemplify) as building blocks of larger, more realistically complex metapopulations provides an avenue for novel insights into the role of host movement on disease dynamics. Moreover, this work demonstrates a framework for future predictive modelling of disease spread in real populations. 
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  5. Close contacts between individuals provide opportunities for the transmission of diseases, including COVID-19. While individuals take part in many different types of interactions, including those with classmates, co-workers and household members, it is the conglomeration of all of these interactions that produces the complex social contact network interconnecting individuals across the population. Thus, while an individual might decide their own risk tolerance in response to a threat of infection, the consequences of such decisions are rarely so confined, propagating far beyond any one person. We assess the effect of different population-level risk-tolerance regimes, population structure in the form of age and household-size distributions, and different interaction types on epidemic spread in plausible human contact networks to gain insight into how contact network structure affects pathogen spread through a population. In particular, we find that behavioural changes by vulnerable individuals in isolation are insufficient to reduce those individuals’ infection risk and that population structure can have varied and counteracting effects on epidemic outcomes. The relative impact of each interaction type was contingent on assumptions underlying contact network construction, stressing the importance of empirical validation. Taken together, these results promote a nuanced understanding of disease spread on contact networks, with implications for public health strategies. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Pathogen management strategies in wildlife are typically accompanied by an array of uncertainties such as the efficacy of vaccines or potential unintended consequences of interventions. In the context of such uncertainties, models of disease transmission can provide critical insight for optimizing pathogen management, especially for species of conservation concern. The endangered Florida panther experienced an outbreak of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) in 2002–2004, and continues to be affected by this deadly virus. Ongoing management efforts aim to mitigate the effects of FeLV on panthers, but with limited information about which strategies may be most effective and efficient. We used a simulation-based approach to determine optimal FeLV management strategies in panthers. We simulated the use of proactive FeLV management strategies (i.e. proactive vaccination) and several reactive strategies, including reactive vaccination and test-and-removal. Vaccination strategies accounted for imperfect vaccine-induced immunity, specifically partial immunity in which all vaccinates achieve partial pathogen protection. We compared the effectiveness of these different strategies in mitigating the number of FeLV mortalities and the duration of outbreaks. Results showed that inadequate proactive vaccination can paradoxically increase the number of disease-induced mortalities in FeLV outbreaks. These effects were most likely due to imperfect vaccine immunity causing vaccinates to serve as a semi-susceptible population, thereby allowing outbreaks to persist in circumstances otherwise conducive to fadeout. Combinations of proactive vaccination with reactive test-and-removal or vaccination, however, had a synergistic effect in reducing the impacts of FeLV outbreaks, highlighting the importance of using mixed strategies in pathogen management. Synthesis and applications. Management-informed disease simulations are an important tool for identifying unexpected negative consequences and synergies among pathogen management strategies. In particular, we find that imperfect vaccine-induced immunity necessitates further consideration to avoid unintentionally worsening epidemics in some conditions. However, mixing proactive and reactive interventions can improve pathogen control while mitigating uncertainties associated with imperfect interventions. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract An animal's social behaviour both influences and changes in response to its parasites. Here we consider these bidirectional links between host social behaviours and parasite infection, both those that occur from ecological vs evolutionary processes. First, we review how social behaviours of individuals and groups influence ecological patterns of parasite transmission. We then discuss how parasite infection, in turn, can alter host social interactions by changing the behaviour of both infected and uninfected individuals. Together, these ecological feedbacks between social behaviour and parasite infection can result in important epidemiological consequences. Next, we consider the ways in which host social behaviours evolve in response to parasites, highlighting constraints that arise from the need for hosts to maintain benefits of sociality while minimizing fitness costs of parasites. Finally, we consider how host social behaviours shape the population genetic structure of parasites and the evolution of key parasite traits, such as virulence. Overall, these bidirectional relationships between host social behaviours and parasites are an important yet often underappreciated component of population-level disease dynamics and host–parasite coevolution. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Host heterogeneity in pathogen transmission is widespread and presents a major hurdle to predicting and minimizing disease outbreaks. Using Drosophila melanogaster infected with Drosophila C virus as a model system, we integrated experimental measurements of social aggregation, virus shedding, and disease-induced mortality from different genetic lines and sexes into a disease modelling framework. The experimentally measured host heterogeneity produced substantial differences in simulated disease outbreaks, providing evidence for genetic and sex-specific effects on disease dynamics at a population level. While this was true for homogeneous populations of single sex/genetic line, the genetic background or sex of the index case did not alter outbreak dynamics in simulated, heterogeneous populations. Finally, to explore the relative effects of social aggregation, viral shedding and mortality, we compared simulations where we allowed these traits to vary, as measured experimentally, to simulations where we constrained variation in these traits to the population mean. In this context, variation in infectiousness, followed by social aggregation, was the most influential component of transmission. Overall, we show that host heterogeneity in three host traits dramatically affects population-level transmission, but the relative impact of this variation depends on both the susceptible population diversity and the distribution of population-level variation. 
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