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Disease EcologyCommunity structure and pathogen dynamics$
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Sharon K. Collinge and Chris Ray

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567080

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567080.001.0001

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Potential effects of a keystone species on the dynamics of sylvatic plague

Potential effects of a keystone species on the dynamics of sylvatic plague

(p.202) chapter 14 Potential effects of a keystone species on the dynamics of sylvatic plague
Disease Ecology

Chris Ray

Sharon K. Collinge

Oxford University Press

Plague is emerging as a threat to humans and wildlife throughout western North America. Sylvatic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, is maintained within a network of mammal species and their fleas. No ‘classic’ reservoir has been identified; no resistant host species is known to develop sufficient bacteremia to support vector transmission. Epizootics are detected through the observation of mass mortality in conspicuous species like prairie dogs. Prairie dogs have key effects on both the ecological and epidemiological dynamics of prairie communities. The diversity of small mammals is lower in prairie dog colonies, despite higher densities of certain species on colonies relative to other grassland sites. This pattern suggests increased competition or apparent competition in colonies, perhaps through shared use of prairie dog burrows. Graphical models demonstrate how the ratio of interspecific to intraspecific interactions may be altered in colonies, affecting the potential for plague transmission in complex ways.

Keywords:   Yersinia pestis, mammal, fleas, transmission, epizootics, prairie dog, keystone species, apparent competition, graphical models

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