Research

 

Group-living has been predicted to have opposing effects on disease transmission risk and optimal immune investment. First, since repeated contacts between individuals facilitate pathogen transmission, sociality may favour high investment in personal immunity. Alternatively, as social animals can limit disease spread through collective sanitary actions (e.g., mutual grooming) or organisational features (e.g., division of the group’s social network into distinct subsets), sociality may instead favour low investment in personal immunity because alternative strategies for disease management are available.

 

Our research focuses primarily on experimentally testing these conflicting predictions in ant colonies using a combination of automated behavioural tracking, social network analysis, controlled inoculation with infectious pathogens and non-pathogenic transmission markers, and measurements of the immune response.