Flies as tools for studying the ecology and evolution of wildlife diseases

Institute Seminar by Jan Gogarten

  • Date: May 2, 2023
  • Time: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Jan Gogarten
  • Dr. Jan Gogarten is a postdoctoral researcher at Applied Zoology and Nature Conservation, University of Greifswald and the Helmholtz Institute for One Health. He is interested in the diverse communities of organisms that associate with primates, the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping them, and their impact on primate health.
  • Host: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
  • Contact: all.science@ab.mpg.de
Flies as tools for studying the ecology and evolution of wildlife diseases
Anthropogenic disturbance is causing major changes in local and global biodiversity distributions. These changes have been linked to the emergence of pathogens, not just in human populations, but among wildlife as well. Systematic monitoring of both wildlife populations and their infectious diseases is needed to help inform conservation efforts and design disease emergence mitigation strategies. I will introduce the new Helmholtz Institute for One Health in Greifswald and highlight the toolkit we use to tackle these issues. One key component of this monitoring strategy involves the metabarcoding of vertebrate DNA found in invertebrates (iDNA) to describe vertebrate communities. I present evidence that flies also represent a valuable tool for pathogen surveillance at different scales. Living in groups provides benefits but also incurs costs such as attracting disease vectors, so I further explore the interaction of flies with primates. For example, synanthropic flies associate with human settlements, and higher fly densities increase pathogen transmission. A mark recapture experiment provides evidence that such associations also exist in highly mobile nonhuman primate groups and I find that these flies carry a diversity of pathogens, including viable Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis, causing sylvatic anthrax, and Treponema pallidum pertenue, causing yaws. I argue that these associations represent an understudied cost of sociality and potentially expose many social animals to a diversity of pathogens. Flies represent an exciting toolkit for monitoring animal and pathogen biodiversity with exciting future research perspectives at the intersection of animal movement biology and disease ecology.

The MPI-AB Seminar Series is open to members of MPI and Uni Konstanz. The zoom link is published each week in the MPI-AB newsletter.

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