Allometric scaling and seasonality in the epidemics of wildlife diseases

Luca Bolzoni, Andrew P. Dobson, Marino Gatto, Giulio A. De Leo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


We present a susceptibles-exposed-infectives (SEI)model to analyze the effects of seasonality on epidemics, mainly of rabies, in a wide range of wildlife species. Model parameters are cast as simple allometric functions of host body size. Via nonlinear analysis, we investigate the dynamical behavior of the disease for different levels of seasonality in the transmission rate and for different values of the pathogen basic reproduction number (R0) over a broad range of body sizes. While the unforced SEI model exhibits long-term epizootic cycles only for large values of R0, the seasonal model exhibits multiyear periodicity for small values of R0. The oscillation period predicted by the seasonal model is consistent with those observed in the field for different host species. These conclusions are not affected by alternative assumptions for the shape of seasonality or for the parameters that exhibit seasonal variations. However, the introduction of host immunity (which occurs for rabies in some species and is typical of many other wildlife diseases) significantly modifies the epidemic dynamics; in this case, multiyear cycling requires a large level of seasonal forcing. Our analysis suggests that the explicit inclusion of periodic forcing in models of wildlife disease may be crucial to correctly describe the epidemics of wildlife that live in strongly seasonal environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-828
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Allometry
  • Bifurcation analysis
  • Epidemics model
  • Rabies
  • Seasonality
  • Wildlife disease


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