Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Plague metapopulation dynamics in a natural reservoir: the burrow system as the unit of study

  • S. DAVIS (a1), N. KLASSOVSKIY (a2), V. AGEYEV (a2), B. SULEIMENOV (a2), B. ATSHABAR (a2), A. KLASSOVSKAYA (a2), M. BENNETT (a3), H. LEIRS (a1) (a4) and M. BEGON (a3)...

The ecology of plague (Yersinia pestis infection) in its ancient foci in Central Asia remains poorly understood. We present field data from two sites in Kazakhstan where the great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) is the major natural host. Family groups inhabit and defend burrow systems spaced throughout the landscape, such that the host population may be considered a metapopulation, with each occupied burrow system a subpopulation. We examine plague transmission within and between family groups and its effect on survival. Transmission of plague occurred disproportionately within family groups although not all gerbils became infected once plague entered a burrow system. There were no spatial patterns to suggest that family groups in close proximity to infected burrow systems were more at risk of infection than those far away. At one site, infection increased the chances of burrow-system extinction. Overall, it is useful to consider the burrow system as the unit of study within a much larger metapopulation.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Dr S. Davis, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, Theoretical Epidemiology, Yalelaan 7, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

25.  FMD Gulland . Impact of infectious diseases on wild animal populations: a review. In: BT Grenfell , AP Dobson eds. Ecology of Infectious Diseases in Natural Populations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 2051.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 8 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 131 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 30th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.