Gaps in modelling animal migration with evolutionary game theory: infection can favour the loss of migration

Allison Shaw, Martha Torstenson, Meggan E. Craft, Sandra A. Binning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ongoing environmental changes alter how natural selection shapes animal migration. Understanding how these changes play out theoretically can be done using evolutionary game theoretic (EGT) approaches, such as looking for evolutionarily stable strategies. Here, we first describe historical patterns of how EGT models have explored different drivers of migration. We find that there are substantial gaps in both the taxa (mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects) and mechanisms (mutualism, interspecific competition) included in past EGT models of migration. Although enemy interactions, including parasites, are increasingly considered in models of animal migration, they remain the least studied of factors for migration considered to date. Furthermore, few papers look at changes in migration in response to perturbations (e.g. climate change, new species interactions). To address this gap, we present a new EGT model to understand how infection with a novel parasite changes host migration. We find three possible outcomes when migrants encounter novel parasites: maintenance of migration (despite the added infection cost), loss of migration (evolutionary shift to residency) or population collapse, depending on the risk and cost of getting infected, and the cost currency. Our work demonstrates how emerging infection can alter animal behaviour such as migration. This article is part of the theme issue 'Half a century of evolutionary games: a synthesis of theory, application and future directions'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20210506
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1876
StatePublished - May 8 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DEB-1654609. S.A.B. is supported by the Canada Research Chair programme. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s).


  • emerging infectious diseases
  • migratory culling
  • migratory exposure
  • novel pathogen
  • predation
  • spillover infection

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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