Social network plasticity decreases disease transmission in a eusocial insect Journal Article


Author(s): Stroeymeyt, Nathalie; Grasse, Anna; Crespi, Alessandro; Mersch, Danielle P; Cremer, Sylvia; Keller, Laurent
Article Title: Social network plasticity decreases disease transmission in a eusocial insect
Affiliation IST Austria
Abstract: Animal social networks are shaped by multiple selection pressures, including the need to ensure efficient communication and functioning while simultaneously limiting disease transmission. Social animals could potentially further reduce epidemic risk by altering their social networks in the presence of pathogens, yet there is currently no evidence for such pathogen-triggered responses. We tested this hypothesis experimentally in the ant Lasius niger using a combination of automated tracking, controlled pathogen exposure, transmission quantification, and temporally explicit simulations. Pathogen exposure induced behavioral changes in both exposed ants and their nestmates, which helped contain the disease by reinforcing key transmission-inhibitory properties of the colony's contact network. This suggests that social network plasticity in response to pathogens is an effective strategy for mitigating the effects of disease in social groups.
Journal Title: Science
Volume: 362
Issue 6417
ISSN: 10959203
Publisher: NLM  
Date Published: 2018-11-23
Start Page: 941
End Page: 945
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4793
Notes: This project was funded by two European Research Council Advanced Grants (Social Life, 249375, and resiliANT, 741491) and two Swiss National Science Foundation grants (CR32I3_141063 and 310030_156732) to L.K. and a European Research Council Starting Grant (SocialVaccines, 243071) to S.C.
Open access: no