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Data from: Sex, synchrony and skin contact: integrating multiple behaviors to assess pathogen transmission risk


Leu, Stephan T. et al. (2020), Data from: Sex, synchrony and skin contact: integrating multiple behaviors to assess pathogen transmission risk, Dryad, Dataset,


Direct pathogen and parasite transmission is fundamentally driven by a population’s contact network structure, its demographic composition, and is further modulated by pathogen life history traits. Importantly, populations are most often concurrently exposed to a suite of pathogens, which is rarely investigated, because contact networks are typically inferred from spatial proximity only. Here, we use five years of detailed observations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) that distinguish between four different types of social contact. We investigate how demography (sex, age) affects these different social behaviors. Three of the four social behaviors can be used as a proxy for understanding key routes of direct pathogen transmission (sexual contact, skin contact, and aerosol contact of respiratory vapor above the water surface). We quantify the demography-dependent network connectedness, representing the risk of exposure associated with the three pathogen transmission routes, quantify co-exposure risks and relate them to individual sociability. Our results suggest demography-driven disease risk in bottlenose dolphins, with males at greater risk than females, and transmission route-dependent implications for different age classes. We hypothesize that male alliance-formation and the divergent reproductive strategies in males and females drive the demography-dependent connectedness and hence exposure risk to pathogens. Our study provides evidence for the risk of co-exposure to pathogens transmitted along different transmission routes and that they relate to individual sociability. Hence, our results highlight the importance of a multi-behavioral approach for a more complete understanding of the overall pathogen transmission risk in animal populations, as well as the cumulative costs of sociality.

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