The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Social network analysis with insights for disease transmission dynamics in wild chimpanzees


1Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, 2Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 4Department of Mathmatics, University of Georgia

Thursday 10:30-10:45, Galleria South Add to calendar

In recent decades, infectious diseases have threatened the health and persistence of Africa's endangered apes. While social structure and the topology of contact networks can influence disease transmission dynamics, few studies have quantified wildlife contact networks to inform wildlife disease management strategies. Our work uses field-collected behavioral data to quantify contact rates and to provide a social network structure necessary for modeling disease transmission. Over a 10-month study period, we recorded the frequency and type of social interactions for a community of wild chimpanzees (N=50) in Kibale Forest, Uganda. Using generalized linear mixed models and social network analysis, we examined contact variability among community members and evaluated the importance of both individual and environmental explanatory variables. We also used node-level regression to assess how various social factors affect the position (e.g., centrality) of individuals in the network. Results show a high degree of variation in contact rates across months and among individuals. Social predicators including age, rank, and relatedness significantly affect the likelihood that two individuals will interact, while age and rank significantly affect an individual’s centrality in the network. Our next step is to simulate disease transmission dynamics by combining social network data with infectious disease models. Overall, this work represents a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding how primate behavior affects pathogen transmission. Our findings provide information needed to develop intervention strategies for protecting Africa’s great apes in the event of a future epidemic.

This study was funded by Morris Animal Foundation, Fulbright, Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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