Substantial research has shown that while some parasite infections can be fatal to hosts, most infections are sub-clinical and non-lethal. Such sub-clinical infections can nonetheless have negative consequences for the long-term fitness of the host such as reducing juvenile growth and the host's ability to compete for food and mates. With such effects, infected individuals are expected to exhibit behavioural changes. Here we use a parasite removal experiment to quantify how gastrointestinal parasite infections affect the behaviour of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) at Lake Nabugabo, Uganda. Behavioural profiles and the structure of nearest neighbour relationships varied significantly. As predicted, after deworming the duration of the resting events decreased, which is consistent with the idea that parasite infections are energetically costly. In contrast to what was predicted, we could not reject the null hypothesis and we observed no change in either the frequency or duration of grooming, but we found that the duration of travel events increased. A network analysis revealed that after deworming, individuals tended to have more nearest neighbours and hence probably more frequent interactions, with this effect being particularly marked for juveniles. The heightened response by juveniles may indicate that they are avoiding infected individuals more than other age classes because it is too costly to move energy away from growth. We consider that populations with high parasite burden may have difficulties developing social networks and behaviours that could have cascading effects that impact the population in general.
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