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Avoidance of disease by social lobsters

Naturevolume 441page421 (2006) | Download Citation


These gregarious animals shun lobsters that carry a lethal virus, even when they still seem to be healthy.


Transmissible pathogens are the bane of social animals1, so they have evolved behaviours to decrease the probability of infection2,3. There is no record, however, of social animals avoiding diseased individuals of their own species in the wild. Here we show how healthy, normally gregarious Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) avoid conspecifics that are infected with a lethal virus. Early detection and avoidance of infected, though not yet infectious, individuals by healthy lobsters confers a selective advantage and highlights the importance of host behaviour in disease transmission among natural populations.

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Author information


  1. Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, 23529, Virginia, USA

    • Donald C. Behringer
    •  & Mark J. Butler
  2. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, 23062, Virginia, USA

    • Jeffrey D. Shields


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark J. Butler.

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