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There is nothing like a pandemic to get the world thinking about how infectious diseases affect individual behavior. In this respect, sick animals can behave in ways that are dramatically different from healthy animals: altered social interactions and changes to patterns of eating and drinking are all hallmarks of sickness. As a result, behavioral changes associated with inflammatory responses (i.e. sickness behaviors) have important implications for disease spread by affecting contacts with others and with common resources, including water and/or sleeping sites. In this Review, we summarize the behavioral modifications, including changes to thermoregulatory behaviors, known to occur in vertebrates during infection, with an emphasis on non-mammalian taxa, which have historically received less attention. We then outline and discuss our current understanding of the changes in physiology associated with the production of these behaviors and highlight areas where more research is needed, including an exploration of individual and sex differences in the acute phase response and a greater understanding of the ecophysiological implications of sickness behaviors for disease at the population level.


This article was originally published in Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 224, issue 9, in 2021.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.


The Company of Biologists Ltd

Available for download on Wednesday, May 04, 2022