Primate-parasite interactions in a semi-arid environment

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Blersch, Rosemary Anne
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Psychology
Primate-parasite ecology is a burgeoning field but relatively little is known about parasitism in primates occupying extreme environments. I combined physiological, environmental, behavioural and parasite data to investigate the correlates of infection in wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) living in a semi-arid region of South Africa. I aimed to assess whether our well-established assumptions about primate-parasite interactions hold true in the context of severe ecological stress and how these external stressors may impact how monkeys respond to infection. I found that environmental conditions were the primary drivers of parasitism in the population, with individual-level characteristics playing a diminished role. I also found that while there were links between aspects of behaviour and parasitism, ecological conditions constrained behavioural flexibility. These results highlight the difficulty of generalising across primate populations, and point to the importance of expanding primate-parasite ecology to include animals in more extreme environments. Doing so will allow them to serve as a window into how animals confront climate change-induced environmental changes.
Animal behavior -- Climatic factors , Climate changes -- South Africa , Parasites , Primates , Primates -- Behavior