Spatial scaling of gregarious host populations and nonlinearities in infectious disease transmission

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Highlight: Lunn, T. J., Peel, A. J., Eby, P., Brooks, R., Plowright, R. K., Kessler, M. K., & McCallum, H. (2021). Counterintuitive scaling between population abundance and local density: Implications for modelling transmission of infectious diseases in bat populations. Journal of Animal Ecology, Quantifying the transmission of an infectious disease is often difficult and for natural animal systems it can be a major challenge. Animals move over time and space changing their degree of aggregation and rate of contact, which, in turn, affects the risk of infection and the onward spread of the pathogen. Capturing the fundamentals of these processes requires the identification of both the correct spatial scale at which the processes take place and what constitutes a meaningful host population unit. Lunn et al. collected data on the gregarious Pteropus (flying foxes) bats from roost sites in Australia and investigated whether total bat abundance at the roost level, the spatial scale commonly used to model pathogen spread in bat populations, was representative of bat measurements at the tree level, the scale at which pathogen transmission between bats most likely occurs. Their findings showed that bat population measurements at the sub-plot level were strong predictors for potential transmission at the tree scale, while roost-level measurements were less robust. This study suggests that bat abundance at roost is inadequate to capture the gregarious structure of bat populations and the fundamental processes of transmission at lower scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-915
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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