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Mapping the Social Network: Tracking lice in a wild primate population (Microcebus rufus) to infer social contacts and vector potential

Author

Zohdy, Sarah
Kemp, Addison D.
Durden, Lance A.
Wright, Patricia C.
Jernvall, Jukka
0000-0001-5316-0567

Publisher

BMC

Abstract

Studies of host-parasite interactions have the potential to provide insights into the ecology of both organisms involved. We monitored the movement of sucking lice (Lemurpediculus verruculosus), parasites that require direct host-host contact to be transferred, in their host population of wild mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus). These lemurs live in the rainforests of Madagascar, are small (40 g), arboreal, nocturnal, solitary foraging primates for which data on population-wide interactions are difficult to obtain. We developed a simple, cost effective method exploiting the intimate relationship between louse and lemur, whereby individual lice were marked, without removal from their host, with an individualized code, and tracked throughout the lemur population. We then tested the hypotheses that 1) the frequency of louse transfers, and thus interactions, would decrease with increasing distance between paired individual lemurs; 2) due to host polygynandry, social interactions and hence louse transfers would increase during the onset of the breeding season; and 3) individual mouse lemurs would vary in their contributions to the spread of lice