Parasites are ubiquitous in wildlife populations, but physiological and behavioural responses of hosts to infection are difficult to measure. We experimentally treated semi-free-ranging red-capped mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus) in Nigeria with antiparasitic drugs and examined subsequent changes in glucocorticoid production and individual behaviour. Because both parasites and stress impact energy balance and health, we measured (i) behavioural time re-allocation via activity budgets, (ii) social relationships (e.g. social connectivity and dominance hierarchy stability) and (iii) body condition. We collected triplicate faecal samples (n = 441) from 49 individuals prior to and following treatment. Cortisol levels fluctuated in parallel with parasite abundance. Elevations in cortisol, but not parasitism, were related to reduced body condition. Behaviour also shifted according to infection status, with uninfected individuals spending more time foraging and less time resting and vigilant compared with when they were infected. Time spent feeding, travelling or socializing did not differ between pre- and post-treatment time periods. Group cohesion, but not dominance stability, changed following treatment, suggesting parasite-induced social avoidance. Together, these findings show a coordinated response to infection that promotes host tolerance through stress and energy conservation, reduces transmission risk and increases protection when infected hosts are vulnerable.
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - Jul 27 2016
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology
- General Environmental Science
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences