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Simulated infection alters the behavior of pair bonded songbirds and their healthy neighbors

Citation

Love, Ashley et al. (2022), Simulated infection alters the behavior of pair bonded songbirds and their healthy neighbors, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.rn8pk0pfw

Abstract

While infection and perceived infection risk can influence social and reproductive behavior in several taxa, relatively little is known about how infection specifically affects pair bond behaviors. Some pair bond maintenance behaviors may be costly to maintain during infection, and infection could promote avoidance behaviors within an established pair. Many species exhibiting pair bonds are part of larger social groups, and behavioral shifts in established pairs can result in altered extra-pair contact rates that could also shape disease transmission. Using captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), we examined how an immune challenge with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) influences activity, social behavior, and pair bond maintenance behaviors in established pairs and their healthy neighbors. We observed shifts in individual and pair maintenance behaviors in both immune-challenged pairs and healthy pairs exposed to a social cue of infection (sick conspecifics). Specifically, LPS-challenged birds decreased activity and social interaction attempts relative to control birds, consistent with LPS-induced sickness behavior. LPS-challenged birds also increased the frequency of clumping (perching together in bodily contact) between individuals within a pair. Healthy birds exposed to immune-challenged conspecifics decreased flight activity and increased self-preening, behaviors which could function to limit infection risk. Exploring how both infection and the perceived risk of infection shape behaviors within and among paired individuals will increase our understanding of the role of social behaviors in shaping disease dynamics.

Funding

National Science Foundation