Migratory recovery from infection as a selective pressure for the evolution of migration

Allison K. Shaw, Sandra A. Binning

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Migration, a widespread animal behavior, can influence how individuals acquire and transmit pathogens. Past work has demonstrated that migration can reduce the costs of pathogen or parasite infection through two processes: migratory escape from infected areas or individuals and migratory culling of infected individuals. Here, we propose a third process: migratory recovery, where infected individuals lose their parasites and recover from infection during migration. Recovery can occur when parasites and/or their intermediate hosts cannot support changes in the migratory host's internal or external en­vironment during migration. Thus, parasite mortality increases with migration. Although migratory recovery is likely widespread across species, it remains challenging to empirically test it as a selective force promoting migration. We develop a model and determine the conditions under which migratory recovery theoretically favors the evolu­tion of migration. We show that incorporating migratory recovery into a model of migratory escape increases the range of biologically realistic conditions favoring migration and leads to scenarios where partial migration can evolve. Motivated by empirical estimates of in­fection costs, our model shows how recovery from infection could drive the evolution of migration. We suggest a number of future directions for both theoretical and empirical research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-516
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • Environ­mental gradient
  • Evolutionarily stable strategy
  • Host-parasite interaction
  • Partial migration
  • Pathogen infection
  • Population dynamics


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