Myanmar Timber Elephant Project

New paper out by Carly Lynsdale et al: Investigating associations between nematode infection and three measures of sociality in Asian elephants

June 28, 2022


Frequent social interactions, proximity to conspecifics, and group density are main drivers of infections and parasite trans- missions. However, recent theoretical and empirical studies suggest that the health benefits of sociality and group living can outweigh the costs of infection and help social individuals fight infections or increase their infection-related tolerance level. Here, we combine the advantage of studying artificially created social work groups with different demographic compositions with free-range feeding and social behaviours in semi-captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), employed in timber logging in Myanmar. We examine the link between gastro-intestinal nematode load (strongyles and Strongyloides spp.), estimated by faecal egg counts, and three different aspects of an elephant’s social world: individual solitary behaviour, work group size, and work group sex ratio. Controlling for sex, age, origin, time since last deworming treatment, year, human sampler bias, and individual identity, we found that infection by nematodes ranged from 0 to 2720 eggs/g between and within 26 male and 45 female elephants over the 4-year study period. However, such variation was not linked to any investigated measures of sociality in either males or females. Our findings highlight the need for finer-scale studies, establishing how sociality is limited by, mitigates, or protects against infection in different ecological contexts, to fully understand the mechanisms underlying these pathways.

Read more:

Lynsdale Carly L., Seltmann Martin W., Nay Oo Mon, Htoo Htoo Aung, U Kyaw Nyien, Win Htut, Lahdenperä Mirkka, Lummaa Virpi (2022) Investigating associations between nematode infection and three measures of sociality in Asian elephants.  Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76:87