Predicting Canine Distemper Virus Dynamics in African Lion Populations

Mary Woodcock Kroble
Saturday 9 June 2007
Date: 14 September 2007
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Speaker: Meggan Craft (University of Minnesota)


Generalist pathogens, such as canine distemper virus (CDV), can have devastating effects on wild felid populations; in 1994 over 1000 Serengeti lions died from CDV. In order to understand the CDV transmission dynamics among lions in this ecosystem, we built a spatially-explicit mathematical model of CDV transmission based on pride location, demographic, and contact data from the Serengeti Lion Project. We use this model to ask whether lion populations can sustain CDV epidemics without repeated introduction from other sympatric carnivore species, such as hyenas and jackals. We find that that other carnivore species were likely involved in the 1994 epidemic. Inspired by these results, we built a multi-species model involving three theoretical carnivore species with differing social structure. We use this model to ask whether interspecific disease transmission could produce the observed patchy spread of CDV in the lion population. Our model suggests that when species with varying degrees of within- and between-group disease transmission are coupled, a patchy spatial spread is produced in the species that could not have sustained the epidemic on its own. The results from both models suggest that lions are a non-maintenance population for CDV and the reservoir for CDV is either domestic dogs alone or combined with other wild carnivore species.