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The link between animal personality and infection risk in natural populations of Mastomys natalensis infected with Morogoro arenavirus.

Animal personality is the phenomenon that behaviour is consistent through time, meaning, for example, that some individuals are always more aggressive than others. Any behaviour can be defined as a personality trait, as long as it is repeatable through time, but personality traits are generally divided into five categories: boldness, exploration, activity, aggressiveness and sociability. Highly explorative individuals may be more likely to encounter mates and thus have high reproductive success, for example, but they may also be at an increased risk of encountering parasites, pathogens, and predators. These fitness costs of personality are understudied, but may have important implications for disease dynamics. Using the natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) - Morogoro arenavirus study system, I will examine the possible links between personality traits, immune functioning, and infection risk. Specifically, I will 1) establish whether M. natalensis show evidence of consistent personality traits and if any traits are correlated, 2) investigate whether host personality traits are associated with viral infections in free-living populations, 3) determine whether there is a relationship between some personality traits and immune system function, 4) experimentally test whether infection alters the expression of personality traits, and 5) use epidemiological models to explore the potential effects of personality on virus transmission dynamics in free-living populations.
Date:1 Oct 2016 →  30 Sep 2018
Disciplines:Animal biology, Genetics, Veterinary medicine
Project type:Collaboration project