Sickness behaviors can slow the spread of pathogens across a social network. We conducted a field experiment to investigate how sickness behavior affects individual connectedness over time using a dynamic social network created from high-resolution proximity data. After capturing adult female vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) from a roost, we created "sick"bats by injecting a random half of bats with the immune-challenging substance, lipopolysaccharide, while the control group received saline injections. Over the next 3 days, we used proximity sensors to continuously track dyadic associations between 16 "sick"bats and 15 control bats under natural conditions. Compared to control bats, "sick"bats associated with fewer bats, spent less time near others, and were less socially connected to more well-connected individuals (sick bats had on average a lower degree, strength, and eigenvector centrality). High-resolution proximity data allow researchers to flexibly define network connections (association rates) based on how a particular pathogen is transmitted (e.g., contact duration of >1 vs. >60 min, contact proximity of <1 vs. <10 m). Therefore, we inspected how different ways of measuring association rates changed the observed effect of LPS. How researchers define association rates influences the magnitude and detectability of sickness effects on network centrality. When animals are sick, they often encounter fewer individuals. We tracked this unintentional "social distancing"effect hour-by-hour in a wild colony of vampire bats. Using bat-borne proximity sensors, we compared changes in the social network connectedness of immune-challenged "sick"bats versus "control"bats over time. "Sick"bats had fewer encounters with others and spent less time near others. Associations changed dramatically by time of day, and different measures of association influenced the sickness effect estimates.
Ripperger, S. P., Stockmaier, S., & Carter, G. G. (2020, November 1). Tracking sickness effects on social encounters via continuous proximity sensing in wild vampire bats. Behavioral Ecology. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa111