Published on Mon Jan 04 2021

Urban-adapted mammal species have more known pathogens

Albery, G. F., Carlson, C. J., Cohen, L. E., Eskew, E. A., Gibb, R., Ryan, S. J., Sweeny, A. R., Becker, D. J.

Mammals that regularly inhabit urban environments may have more frequent contact with humans and therefore host more known zoonotic pathogens. Here, we test this prediction using a consolidated dataset of phenotypic traits, urban affiliate status, and pathogen diversity, across 3004 mammal species.

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Abstract

Mammals that regularly inhabit urban environments may have more frequent contact with humans and therefore host more known zoonotic pathogens. Here, we test this prediction using a consolidated dataset of phenotypic traits, urban affiliate status, and pathogen diversity, across 3004 mammal species. We show that urban-adapted mammals have more documented pathogens -- and more zoonoses -- even when considering a correlated suite of phenotypic, taxonomic, and geographic predictors. However, contrary to predictions, path analysis revealed that urban-adapted species do not host more zoonoses than expected given their total observed pathogen richness. We conclude that extended historical contact with humans has had a limited impact on the number of observed zoonoses in urban-adapted mammals. Instead, their greater observed zoonotic richness likely reflects either sampling bias due to greater cultural awareness and physical proximity to humans, or increased baseline pathogen diversity arising from the physiological and ecological consequences of urban living. Authorship StatementGFA and DB conceived the study, and GFA analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. All other authors offered thoughts on the analysis and commented on the manuscript. Data Accessibility StatementThe code used here is available at https://github.com/gfalbery/UrbanOutputters. On acceptance, the data will be uploaded to the same repo, which will be archived on Zenodo.