Publication Date



Animals infected with pathogens often differ in behaviour from their uninfected counterparts, and these differences may be key to understanding zoonotic pathogen transmission. To explore behavioural heterogeneity and its role in pathogen transmission, we studied deer mice, Peromyscus maniculatus, under field conditions.Deer mice are the natural host of Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a zoonotic pathogen with high human mortality.We live-trapped mice in May, July and September of 2009 and 2010, marked captures with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags, recorded physical characteristics and collected blood samples for SNV analysis. For 4 nights after each trapping session, we observed behaviour with a novel surveillance system of nine camera stations, each consisting of a foraging tray, infrared camera, PIT antenna and data logger.We found that deer mice infected with SNV (30.0%) engaged more frequently in behaviours that increased the probability of intraspecific encounters and SNV transmission than did uninfected deer mice. When deer mice were categorized as bold (31.7%) or shy (68.3%) based on these behaviours, bold behaviour was predictive of positive SNV status. Bold deer mice were three times more likely to be infected with SNV than were shy deer mice. These results suggest that a small percentage of bold individuals are responsible for a majority of SNV transmission events, and that behavioural phenotype is an important consideration in transmission dynamics of zoonotic diseases.

Author Supplied Keywords

Agressive interaction, Deer mice, Disease ecology, Disease transmission, Hantavirus, Peromyscus maniculatus, Risky behaviour, Zoonotic disease

Publication Information

Animal Behaviour, 2013, Volume 86, Issue 5, 911-916.

© Animal Behaviour, Elsevier Publishing.

Archived version is the accepted manuscript.





Document Type

Journal Article

Published Version

(Available to UP community as permitted)