Interactions between wildlife hosts act as transmission routes for directly transmitted pathogens and vary in ways that affect transmission efficiency. Identifying drivers of contact variation can allow both contact inference and estimation of transmission dynamics despite limited data. In desert tortoises, mating strategy, burrow use and seasonal change influence numerous behaviours and likely shape contact patterns. In this study, we ask to what extent tortoise contact behaviour varies between sexes and seasons, and whether space or burrow-use data can be used to infer contact characteristics consistent with those recorded by proximity loggers. We identified sex and season-biased contact behaviour in both wild and captive populations indicative of female-female avoidance and seasonal male mate-seeking behaviour. Space and burrow-use patterns were informative, but did not always predict the extent of sex or seasonal biases on contact. We discuss the implications these findings have for transmission patterns and disease mitigation in tortoise populations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Behavioral Neuroscience