Banded mongoose

Banded mongoose
Two mongoose take an afternoon nap. This highly social species is threatened by a novel tuberculosis pathogen.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Banded Mongoose Disease Ecology

Banded mongoose are highly social animals that spend each and every moment of their lives with their troop. Their group dynamics, activities and interactions are a key determinant in the success of the troop as a whole, particularly in terms of security, territory establishment, marking, and maintenance, feeding, and grooming.

In terms of the present study, though, these group dynamics are interesting for precisely the opposite reason. The novel strain of tuberculosis (M. mungi) identified by Dr Alexander and her team at Virginia Tech's Alexander Lab actually seems to be making use of the social interactions of banded mongoose troops in the Chobe region in order to spread.

This kind of "piggybacking" is not unique to banded mongoose or tuberculosis, and yet the the presence and prevalence of this disease does present Dr Alexander and her team with the opportunity not only to investigate the mechanisms behind the transmission of this specific infection in these populations, but also to make some broader observations as to the manner in which diseases like this one affect the viability of social animals.

By monitoring the social behaviors and interactions of troops along the Chobe riverfront, Dr Alexander and her co-investigators hope to gain an insight into the manner in which this strain of TB is transmitted. Social interactions are carefully monitored and recorded, numbers are monitored, and visibly infected individuals counted and observed.

Groups typically range between ten and thirty individuals, and one of the objectives of this study is to determine the point at which a group is no longer viable. This phenomenon, known as the allee effect, is the product of the relationship between individual fitness and group numbers or population density, and understanding the way this works in banded mongoose populations will potentially have much broader implications as it relates to other social species.

The group pictured here is one of  the troops that is currently being monitored. There are a number of visibly infected individuals in this troop, and yet group as a whole is large and apparently healthy. Their social interactions are plain for all to see as they forage, groom each other, and sleep in the sun together, all the while keeping a watchful eye out for predators and other threats. The infected individuals in this otherwise quite idyllic scene offer a stark reminder that all is not well here.

Monday, 31 August 2015

African Wildlife May Be Acquiring Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria From Nearby Humans | Smart News | Smithsonian

African Wildlife May Be Acquiring Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria From Nearby Humans | Smart News | Smithsonian

Our research indicates that antibiotic resistance is a growing problem even in remote regions of the world. This work was done as part of an NSF CNH funded project.

This builds on our earlier work investigating the movement of microorganisms between mongoose and humans. Data suggest it is common  - as was antibiotic resistance.

Pesapane, Ponder, Alexander - 2013

Tracking pathogen transmission at the human-wildlife interface: banded mongoose and Escherichia coli. - Ecohealth

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Education is the cornerstone of progress and an important partner to research. Students from two local primary schools participate once a week in an after school club where a specially developed health and science curriculum is being delivered. Developing passion and interest in the environment is a critical first step to improved stewardship. Equally important, is the development of an interest in science and health so tomorrow's scientists and leaders are able to manage our increasingly complex world.

Friday, 21 August 2015

check this out!

The Impact of Health Status on Dispersal Behavior in Banded Mongooses (Mungos mungo) - Springer

Our research identifies important links between behavior and infectious disease dynamics.
Human Disease Leptospirosis Identified in New Species, the Banded Mongoose, in Africa | NSF - National Science Foundation

Our work on the banded mongoose has provided important insight into the community of pathogens that occur in this diverse ecosystem. We are working closely with the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism and the Ministry of Health in Botswana.

Welcome to our blog. We will be using this space to share our research program with you! This project is aimed at understanding how disease and other threats impact social species. We are studying the banded mongoose - this species is social and occurs across protected and unprotected landscapes - allowing us to ask important questions  including how we affect social species and their continued survival.

Banded mongoose are small (<2 kg) group-living, territorial carnivores. They occur in groups or troops that can number 8-65 individuals in our study area. This species has been the focus of a long-term study in Chobe, Botswana since 2000 where we have developed a field research laboratory and work collaboratively with the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism. Banded mongoose are infected with Mycobacterium mungi, a novel emerging M. tuberculosis complex pathogen that appears to be directly transmitted through a non-respiratory route. Endemic disease in this system allows us to investigate our study questions, identify theory and knowledge, as well as dynamical modeling approaches that have broad application across a larger class of systems where group-living may make some species more vulnerable to disease and other sources of mortality.