Disease is one of the evolutionary forces shaping populations. Recent studies have shown that epidemics like avian pox, malaria, or mycoplasmosis have affected passerine population dynamics, being responsible for the decline of some populations or disproportionately killing males and larger individuals and thus selecting for specific morphotypes. However, few studies have estimated the effects of an epidemic by following individual birds using the capture-recapture approach. Because avian pox can be diagnosed by direct examination of the birds, we are here able to analyze, using multistate models, the development and consequences of an avian pox epidemic affecting in 1996, a population of Serins (Serinus serinus) in northeastern Spain. The epidemics lasted from June to the end of November of 1996, with a maximum apparent prevalence rate > 30% in October. However, recapture rate of sick birds was very high (0.81, range 0.37-0.93) compared to that of healthy birds (0.21, range 0.02-0.32), which highly inflated apparent prevalence rate. This was additionally supported by the low predicted transition from the state of being uninfected to the state of being infected (0.03, SE 0.03). Once infected, Serin avian pox was very virulent with (15-day) survival rate of infected birds being of only 0.46 (SE 0.17) compared to that of healthy ones (0.87, SE 0.03). Probability of recovery from disease, provided that the bird survived the first two weeks, however, was very high (0.65, SE 0.25). The use of these estimates together with a simple model, allowed us to predict an asymptotic increase to prevalence of about 4% by the end of the outbreak period, followed by a sharp decline, with the only remaining infestations being infected birds that had not yet recovered. This is in contrast to the apparent prevalence of pox and stresses the need to estimate recapture rates when estimating population dynamics parameters.
Avian pox, Epidemics, Serin, Serinus serinus, Survival, Capture–recapture
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