Date: July 7, 2015
Source: University of Edinburgh
Summary: Disease in wild animals can have a greater impact on the health of others than on the infected animals themselves, a study suggests. Research in families of wild seabirds reveals for the first time how parasite infection in some can have a serious effect on how well their relatives do.
It is not clear why infection in some birds can affect others, but scientists suggest it may affect adults' ability to nurture their young, or that infected chicks may need more care.
The findings could have important implications for the conservation of wild animals, including seabirds, which are under threat.
Scientists from The University Of Edinburgh and the Centre For Ecology And Hydrology studied the impact of disease on families of cormorant-like birds, known as shags, on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve off Scotland's east coast during the breeding season.
They found that worm infection in parent birds or their nestlings impacted most on others in their family group.