Linking disease and community ecology through behavioural indicators: immunochallenge of white-footed mice and its ecological impacts

Schwanz, Lisa E., Brisson, Dustin, Gomes-Solecki, Maria, and Ostfeld, Richard S. (2011) Linking disease and community ecology through behavioural indicators: immunochallenge of white-footed mice and its ecological impacts. Journal of Animal Ecology, 80 (1). pp. 204-214.

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1. Pathogens and immune challenges can induce changes in host phenotype in ways that indirectly impact important community interactions, including those that affect host–pathogen interactions.

2. To explore host behavioural response to immune challenge, we exposed wild white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to an immunogen from an endemic, zoonotic pathogen, the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. White-footed mice are a major reservoir host of Lyme disease (LD) spirochetes in northeastern USA and an abundant member of forest communities. The activity patterns, foraging behaviour, and space use of white-footed mice have implications for population growth rates of community members upon which mice incidentally prey (i.e. gypsy moths and native thrushes), as well as potentially determining host-vector encounter rates and human risk of LD.

3.  Immunochallenge led to specific humoral (antibody) and cellular (i.e. elevated neutrophils and eosinophils) immune responses, supporting use of the immunogen as a surrogate for pathogenic infection.

4.  Immunochallenged mice had reduced wheel-running activity early in the night when measured in the lab. However, mouse activity, as measured by track plates in natural field experiments, did not differ between mice exposed to the immunogen and unexposed mice.

5.  Foraging behaviour of wild mice in the field – assessed with giving-up densities of seed at artificial feeding stations – was affected by exposure to the immunogen. Whereas immunochallenge did not influence whether foraging mice gained information on patch quality while foraging, it led to reductions in predator avoidance during foraging, suggesting that the proportion of space used by foraging mice may be greater as a result of immunochallenge. This increased space use is predicted to increase encounter rates with patchily distributed LD vectors (ticks) and with incidental prey items.

6.  Thus, immunochallenge in white-footed mice, and potentially pathogenic infection, have the potential to indirectly impact community interactions, including those important for pathogen transmission.

Item ID: 18806
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2656
Keywords: behavioural indicators, black-legged tick, Borrelia burgdorferi, GUDs, gypsy moth, indirect community effect, Ixodes scapularis, lyme disease ecology, quitting harvest rate
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2012 05:40
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 25%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060307 Host-Parasite Interactions @ 25%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960499 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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