From population to individual host scale and back again: Testing theories of infection and defence in the soay sheep of st kilda

Adam D. Hayward, Romain Garnier, Dylan Z. Childs, Bryan T. Grenfell, Kath Ryn A. Watt, Jill G. Pilkington, Josephine M. Pemberton, Andrea L. Graham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Why do hosts vary so much in parasite burden, how does this variation translate to variation in host demographic rates and parasite transmission, and how does varied transmission intensity impact selection upon immune defence of individuals? The theoretical foundations of disease ecology provide predictions for the answers to these questions, yet testing such predictions with empirical data poses many challenges. We show how the long-term ecological and genetic study of the unmanaged Soay sheep of St Kilda has addressed fundamental questions in disease ecology, with longitudinal data on parasite burden, immune defence, condition, survival, and fecundity of >10,000 individuals. The rich individual-scale data are complemented by >30 years of data on sheep population dynamics and genetic diversity as well as parasite dynamics and diversity. Population-scale work has documented the range of parasite species present and the contribution of the most prevalent and virulent parasites to regulating sheep dynamics. Individual-scale work has identified drivers of variation in parasite burden and tested hypotheses about costs and benefits of defence in a quest to determine how natural selection has shaped immune function of the sheep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWildlife Disease Ecology
Subtitle of host publicationLinking Theory to Data and Application
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages91-128
Number of pages38
ISBN (Electronic)9781316479964
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)

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