Although theoretical models consider social networks as pathways for disease transmission, strong empirical support, particularly for indirectly transmitted parasites, is lacking for many wildlife populations. We found multiple genetic strains of the enteric bacterium Salmonella enterica within a population of Australian sleepy lizards (Tiliqua rugosa), and we found that pairs of lizards that shared bacterial genotypes were more strongly connected in the social network than were pairs of lizards that did not. In contrast, there was no significant association between spatial proximity of lizard pairs and shared bacterial genotypes. These results provide strong correlative evidence that these bacteria are transmitted from host to host around the social network, rather than that adjacent lizards are picking up the same bacterial genotype from some common source.
- parasite transmission
- social network