Data from: Seasonal variation in daily patterns of social contacts in the European badger Meles meles
Silk, Matthew J. et al. (2018), Data from: Seasonal variation in daily patterns of social contacts in the European badger Meles meles, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jr0s5
Social interactions among hosts influence the persistence and spread of infectious pathogens. Daily and seasonal variation in the frequency and type of social interactions will play an important role in disease epidemiology and, alongside other factors, may have an influence on wider disease dynamics by causing seasonal forcing of infection, especially if the seasonal variation experienced by a population is considerable. We explored temporal variation in within-group contacts in a high-density population of European badgers Meles meles naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis). Summer contacts were more likely and of longer duration during the daytime, while the frequency and duration of winter contacts did not differ between day and night. In spring and autumn, within-group contacts peaked at dawn and dusk, corresponding with when they were of shortest duration with reduced potential for aerosol transmission of pathogens. Summer and winter could be critical for transmission of M. bovis in badgers, due to the high frequency and duration of contacts during resting periods, and we discuss the links between this result and empirical disease data. This study reveals clear seasonality in daily patterns of contact frequency and duration in species living in stable social groups, suggesting that changes in social contacts could drive seasonal forcing of infection in wildlife populations even when the number of individuals interacting remains similar.