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Havarua, Z., Turner, W.C. and Mfune, J.K.E. 2014. Seasonal variation in foraging behaviour of plains zebra (Equus quagga) may alter contact with the anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 92: 331–337


Description:

Seasonal variation in foraging behaviour of plains zebra (Equus quagga) may alter contact with the anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis).

Summary / Notes:

Pathogens transmitted via the environment are often aggregated in space, and seasonal variation in wildlife foraging behaviour may alter contact rates with environmental pathogens. The soil-borne bacterium Bacillus anthracis Cohn, 1872 causes anthrax, and herbivores acquire gastrointestinal anthrax by ingesting spores. Therefore host foraging behaviour could be a fundamental component of anthrax epidemiology. This study investigated seasonal changes in bite density and diet of plains zebras (Equus quagga Boddaert, 1785) in relation to anthrax seasonality in Etosha National Park, Namibia, where most zebra anthrax cases are observed in wet seasons. The diet of zebras shifted from more short grasses during the wet season to more tall grasses in the dry season, suggesting a greater potential for soil ingestion in wet seasons. Zebras also foraged most intensively in the wet season with the number of bites/step declining through the dry season. This higher bite density in wet seasons may lead individuals to ingest greater concentrations of the pathogen if foraging in a localized infectious area. Although sex and reproductive state affected bite density, no sex difference in anthrax occurrence was observed. This study demonstrates how considering variation in host foraging behaviour may enhance our understanding of disease seasonality for pathogens with foraging-dependent transmission. Keywords: Bacillus anthracis, disease transmission, Etosha National Park, Equus quagga, foraging ecology.

Year: 2004

Type: Journal Article

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