Ecology: avoidance of disease by social lobsters

Nature. 2006 May 25;441(7092):421. doi: 10.1038/441421a.


Transmissible pathogens are the bane of social animals, so they have evolved behaviours to decrease the probability of infection. There is no record, however, of social animals avoiding diseased individuals of their own species in the wild. Here we show how healthy, normally gregarious Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) avoid conspecifics that are infected with a lethal virus. Early detection and avoidance of infected, though not yet infectious, individuals by healthy lobsters confers a selective advantage and highlights the importance of host behaviour in disease transmission among natural populations.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / physiology
  • Animals, Wild / virology
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Carrier State / prevention & control
  • Carrier State / transmission
  • Carrier State / veterinary*
  • Carrier State / virology
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / veterinary*
  • Ecology
  • Health
  • Models, Biological
  • Palinuridae / physiology*
  • Palinuridae / virology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Time Factors