University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Infectious disease and sickness behaviour: Tumour progression affects interaction patterns and social network structure in wild Tasmanian devils: Sickness behaviour in Tasmanian devils

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 07:59 authored by David HamiltonDavid Hamilton, Menna JonesMenna Jones, Elissa Cameron, Kerlin, DH, McCallum, H, Storfer, A, Hohenlohe, PA, Rodrigo Hamede RossRodrigo Hamede Ross
nfectious diseases, including transmissible cancers, can have a broad range of impacts on host behaviour, particularly in the latter stages of disease progression. However, the difficulty of early diagnoses makes the study of behavioural influences of disease in wild animals a challenging task. Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are affected by a transmissible cancer, devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), in which tumours are externally visible as they progress. Using telemetry and mark–recapture datasets, we quantify the impacts of cancer progression on the behaviour of wild devils by assessing how interaction patterns within the social network of a population change with increasing tumour load. The progression of DFTD negatively influences devils' likelihood of interaction within their network. Infected devils were more active within their network late in the mating season, a pattern with repercussions for DFTD transmission. Our study provides a rare opportunity to quantify and understand the behavioural feedbacks of disease in wildlife and how they may affect transmission and population dynamics in general.


Publication title

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences










School of Natural Sciences


Royal Soc London

Place of publication

6 Carlton House Terrace, London, England, Sw1Y 5Ag

Rights statement

© 2020 The Author(s)

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Terrestrial biodiversity