Gregariousness is associated with parasite species richness in a community of wild chimpanzees

Jessica R. Deere, Kathryn L. Schaber, Steffen Foerster, Ian C. Gilby, Joseph T. Feldblum, Kimberly VanderWaal, Tiffany M. Wolf, Dominic A. Travis, Jane Raphael, Iddi Lipende, Deus Mjungu, Anne E. Pusey, Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, Thomas R. Gillespie

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Increased risk of pathogen transmission through proximity and contact is a well-documented cost of sociality. Affiliative social contact, however, is an integral part of primate group life and can benefit health. Despite its importance to the evolution and maintenance of sociality, the tradeoff between costs and benefits of social contact for group-living primate species remains poorly understood. To improve our understanding of this interplay, we used social network analysis to investigate whether contact via association in the same space and/or physical contact measured through grooming were associated with helminth parasite species richness in a community of wild chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). We identified parasite taxa in 381 fecal samples from 36 individuals from the Kasekela community of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, from November 1, 2006 - October 31, 2012. Over the study period, eight environmentally transmitted helminth taxa were identified. We quantified three network metrics for association and grooming contact, including degree strength, betweenness, and closeness. Our findings suggest that more gregarious individuals - those who spent more time with more individuals in the same space - had higher parasite richness, while the connections in the grooming network were not related to parasite richness. The expected parasite richness in individuals increased by 1.13 taxa (CI: 1.04, 1.22; p = 0.02) per one standard deviation increase in degree strength of association contact. The results of this study add to the understanding of the role that different types of social contact plays in the parasite richness of group-living social primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number87
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We are grateful to the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania National Parks, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute for permissions and facilitation of this research. Many thanks to the Jane Goodall Institute and the staff of the Gombe Stream Research Center for data collection and logistical support in Tanzania. We thank E. Canfield, K. Cross, and R. Giordano for assistance with parasite analyses. We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript.

Funding Information:
Funding This work was funded by the Jane Goodall Institute, the National Institutes of Health (grants: R01 AI58715, R00 HD057992), the National Science Foundation (IIS 0431141, IOS 1052693, IOS 1457260), the Morris Animal Foundation (grants: MAF D09ZO-041 and MAF D09ZO-634), US Fish and Wildlife Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Arcus Foundation, the Leo S. Guthman Foundation, the Windibrow Foundation, Harris Steel Group, University of Minnesota, Duke University, and Emory University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Apes
  • Contact networks
  • Fission–fusion social structure
  • Parasitology
  • Social network analysis
  • Sociality

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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