Mathematical Analysis of the Impact of Social Structure on Ectoparasite Load in Allogrooming Populations
In many social species, there exist a few highly connected individuals living among a larger majority of poorly connected individuals. Previous studies have shown that, although this social network structure may facilitate some aspects of group-living (e.g., collective decision-making), these highly connected individuals can act as super-spreaders of circulating infectious pathogens. We build on this literature to instead consider the impact of this type of network structure on the circulation of ectoparasitic infections in a population. We consider two ODE models that each approximate a simplified network model; one with uniform social contacts, and one with a few highly connected individuals. We find that, rather than increasing risk, the inclusion of highly connected individuals increases the probability that a population will be able to eradicate ectoparasitic infection through social grooming.
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