Seasonal variation in daily patterns of social contacts in the European badger Meles meles
Ecology and Evolution
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Wiley Open Access.
Social interactions among hosts influence the persistence and spread of infectious pathogens. Daily 20 and seasonal variation in the frequency and type of social interactions will play an important role in 21 disease epidemiology, and alongside other factors may have an influence on wider disease dynamics 22 by causing seasonal forcing of infection, especially if the seasonal variation experienced by a 23 population is considerable. We explored temporal variation in within-group contacts in a high-24 density population of European badgers Meles meles naturally-infected with bovine tuberculosis. 25 Summer contacts were more likely and of longer duration during the daytime, while the frequency 26 and duration of winter contacts did not differ between day and night. In spring and autumn within-27 group contacts peaked at dawn and dusk, corresponding with when they were of shortest duration 28 with reduced potential for aerosol transmission of pathogens. Summer and winter could be critical 29 for bovine tuberculosis transmission in badgers, due to the high frequency and duration of contacts 30 during resting periods, and we discuss the links between this result and empirical data. This study 31 reveals clear seasonality in daily patterns of contact frequency and duration in species living in stable 32 social groups, suggesting that changes in social contacts could drive seasonal forcing of infection in 33 wildlife populations even when the number of individuals interacting remains similar.
MJS is funded by NERC grant NE/M004546/1 awarded to RAM, DPC, DJH and MB, with RJD and the 386 APHA team at Woodchester Park, UK as project partners. Data were collected for NW’s PhD, funded 387 by Defra. We thank Jared Wilson-Aggarwal and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments and 388 Keith Silk for providing the photograph for Figure 1.
Awaiting citation and DOI