Charles L. Nunn's research while affiliated with Duke University and other places

Publications (257)

Article
The ongoing risk of emerging infectious disease has renewed calls for understanding the origins of zoonoses and identifying future zoonotic disease threats. Given their close phylogenetic relatedness and geographic overlap with humans, non‐human primates (NHPs) have been the source of many infectious diseases throughout human evolution. NHPs harbor...
Preprint
Background Superspreading infections play an important role in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Superspreading is caused primarily by heterogeneity in social contact rates, and therefore represents an opportunity for targeting surveillance and control via consideration of social network topologies, particularly in resource-limited settings. Yet, it remains...
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Parasites regularly switch into new host species, representing a disease burden and conservation risk to the hosts. The distribution of these parasites also gives insight into characteristics of ecological networks and genetic mechanisms of host-parasite interactions. Some parasites are shared across many species, whereas others tend to be restrict...
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Social and spatial network analysis is an important approach for investigating infectious disease transmission, especially for pathogens transmitted directly between individuals or via environmental reservoirs. Given the diversity of ways to construct networks, however, it remains unclear how well networks constructed from different data types effe...
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Future biodiversity loss threatens the integrity of complex ecological associations, including among hosts and parasites. Almost half of primate species are threatened with extinction, and the loss of threatened hosts could negatively impact parasite associations and ecosystem functions. If endangered hosts are highly connected in host–parasite net...
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Characteristics of the sleep-site are thought to influence the quality and duration of primate sleep, yet only a handful of studies have investigated these links experimentally. Using actigraphy and infrared videography, we quantified sleep in four lemur species ( Eulemur coronatus , Lemur catta , Propithecus coquereli , and Varecia rubra ) under t...
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Anthropogenic disturbance impacts the phylogenetic composition and diversity of ecological communities. While changes in diversity are known to dramatically change species interactions and alter disease dynamics, the effects of phylogenetic changes in host and vector communities on disease have been relatively poorly studied. Using a theoretical mo...
Article
Ending hunger and alleviating poverty are key goals for a sustainable future. Food security is a constant challenge for agrarian communities in low-income countries, especially in Madagascar. We investigated agricultural practices, household characteristics, and food security in northeast Madagascar. We tested whether agricultural practices, demogr...
Preprint
Full-text available
Characteristics of the sleep-site are thought to influence the quality and duration of primate sleep, yet only a handful of studies have investigated these links experimentally. Using actigraphy and infrared videography, we quantified sleep in four lemur species ( Eulemur coronatus, Lemur catta, Propithecus coquereli, and Varecia rubra ) under two...
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Sleep in the primate order remains understudied, with quantitative estimates of sleep duration available for less than 10% of primate species. Even fewer species have had their sleep synchronously quantified with meteorological data, which have been shown to influence sleep-wake regulatory behaviors. We report the first sleep duration estimates in...
Preprint
Parasites regularly switch into new host species, representing a disease burden and conservation risk to the hosts. The distribution of these parasites also gives insight into characteristics of ecological networks and genetic mechanisms of host-parasite interactions. Some parasites are shared across many species, whereas others tend to be restrict...
Article
Full-text available
Despite many recent efforts to predict and control emerging infectious disease threats to humans, we failed to anticipate the zoonotic viruses which led to pandemics in 2009 and 2020. The morbidity, mortality, and economic costs of these pandemics have been staggering. We desperately need a more targeted, cost-efficient, and sustainable strategy to...
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Background and objectives In absolute terms, humans are extremely highly parasitized compared to other primates. This may reflect that humans are outliers in traits correlated with parasite richness: population density, geographic range area, and study effort. The high degree of parasitism could also reflect amplified disease risk associated with a...
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The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected some communities and populations more than others. We propose that an interdisciplinary framework of “One Health Disparities” advances understanding of the social and systemic issues that drive COVID-19 in vulnerable populations. One Health Disparities integrates the social...
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Human activities can increase or decrease risks of acquiring a zoonotic disease, notably by affecting the composition and abundance of hosts. This study investigated the links between land use and infectious disease risk in northeast Madagascar, where human subsistence activities and population growth are encroaching on native habitats and the asso...
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Understanding the drivers of biodiversity is important for forecasting changes in the distribution of life on earth. However, most studies of biodiversity are limited by uneven sampling effort, with some regions or taxa better sampled than others. Numerous methods have been developed to account for differences in sampling effort, but most methods w...
Article
Animals that depend on water sources in dry environments must balance their water demands with predation risk. In settings of water scarcity, predators may strategically exploit prey's dependence on water; prey may adjust their use of water sources either spatially or temporally to avoid overlapping with predators. To examine the spatiotemporal dyn...
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With the predicted increase in extreme weather events as a result of global climate change, animals living in dry or seasonally dry habitats are likely to experience dramatic fluctuations in water availability from season to season and year to year. Understanding how animals respond to short-term changes in water availability is paramount for futur...
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Sleep is essential for survival, yet it represents a time of extreme vulnerability, including through exposure to parasites and pathogens transmitted by biting insects. To reduce the risks of exposure to vector-borne disease, the encounter-dilution hypothesis proposes that the formation of groups at sleep sites is influenced by a “selfish herd” beh...
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Waterholes are critically important to animal survival in dry habitats but are also a potential source of parasite exposure. Avoiding feces may effectively reduce parasite transmission risk, but may also impose costs, including greater travel distances to locate less contaminated resources. We studied factors influencing wild, water-dependent red-f...
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Despite their ubiquity, in most cases little is known about the impact of eukaryotic parasites on their mammalian hosts. Comparative approaches provide a powerful method to investigate the impact of parasites on host ecology and evolution, though two issues are critical for such efforts: controlling for variation in methods of identifying parasites...
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Despite their ubiquity, in most cases little is known about the impact of eukaryotic parasites on their mammalian hosts. Comparative approaches provide a powerful method to investigate the impact of parasites on host ecology and evolution, though two issues are critical for such efforts: controlling for variation in methods of identifying parasites...
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Behaviour underpins interactions among conspecifics and between species, with consequences for the transmission of disease-causing parasites. Because many parasites lead to declines in population size and increased risk of extinction for threatened species, understanding the link between host behaviour and disease transmission is particularly impor...
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Background Given rapid land use changes and climate change underway in many low-income and middle-income countries, it is vitally important to understand how ecosystem changes influence biodiversity and human health, and to identify actions that can improve conservation, while also improving human health. We are investigating how human activities a...
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Primates spend almost half their lives asleep, yet little is known about how sleep influences their waking cognition. We hypothesized that diurnal and cathemeral lemurs differ in their need for consistent, non-segmented sleep for next-day cognitive function—including long-term memory consolidation, self-control, foraging efficiency, and sociality....
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Sleep is a critically important dimension of primate behavior, ecology, and evolution, yet primate sleep is under-studied because current methods of analyzing sleep are expensive, invasive, and time-consuming. In contrast to electroencephalography (EEG) and actigraphy, videography is a cost-effective and non-invasive method to study sleep architect...
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Host movements, including migrations or range expansions, are known to influence parasite communities. Transitions to captivity-a rarely studied yet widespread human-driven host movement-can also change parasite communities, in some cases leading to pathogen spillover among wildlife species, or between wildlife and human hosts. We compared parasite...
Article
Humans are thought to exhibit an unusual suite of life history traits relative to other primates, with a longer lifespan, later age at first reproduction, and shorter interbirth interval. These assumptions are key components of popular hypotheses about human life history evolution, but they have yet to be investigated phylogenetically. We applied t...
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As predicted by sexual selection theory, males are larger than females in most polygynous mammals, but recent studies found that ecology and life history traits also affect sexual size dimorphism (SSD) through evolutionary changes in either male size, female size, or both. The primates of Madagascar (Lemuriformes) represent the largest group of mam...
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While the human brain is clearly large relative to body size, less is known about the timing of brain and brain component expansion within primates and the relative magnitude of volumetric increases. Using Bayesian phylogenetic comparative methods and data for both extant and fossil species, we identified that a distinct shift in brain-body scaling...
Article
Objectives: The lunar cycle is expected to influence sleep-wake patterns in human populations that have greater exposure to the environment, as might be found in forager populations that experience few environmental buffers. We investigated this “moonlight” hypothesis in two African populations: one composed of hunter-gatherers (with minimal enviro...
Article
Social substructure can influence pathogen transmission. Modularity measures the degree of social contact within versus between "communities" in a network, with increasing modularity expected to reduce transmission opportunities. We investigated how social substructure scales with network size and disease transmission. Using small-scale primate soc...
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The skin harbors diverse communities of microorganisms, and alterations to these communities can impact the effectiveness of the skin as a barrier to infectious organisms or injury. As the global availability and adoption of antibacterial products increases, it is important to understand how these products affect skin microbial communities of peopl...
Data
Comparison of the first and third blood pressure readings from 2016 and 2017. The third measurement is lower than the first. (EPS)
Data
SBP (R2 = 0.186, p<0.001) and DBP (R2 = 0.067, p<0.001) increases with age. The dashed line indicates the minimum blood pressure value for hypertension. (PDF)
Data
Predictors of blood pressure, as related to lifestyle and household attributes, from 2015 data (N = 47). (PDF)
Data
Cohort demographics, where SBP and DBP are the third readings. (PDF)
Article
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Elevated blood pressure presents a global health threat, with rates of hypertension increasing in low and middle-income countries. Lifestyle changes may be an important driver of these increases in blood pressure. Hypertension is particularly prevalent in African countries, though the majority of studies have focused on mainland Africa. We collecte...
Data
Demographic data, as related to lifestyle and household attributes. (PDF)
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Objectives Primates spend almost half their lives asleep, yet we know little about how evolution has shaped variation in the duration or intensity of sleep (i.e., sleep regulation) across primate species. Our objective was to test hypotheses related to how sleeping site security influences sleep intensity in different lemur species. Methods We use...
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The community of host species that a parasite infects is often explained by functional traits and phylogeny, predicting that closely related hosts or those with particular traits share more parasites with other hosts. Previous research has examined parasite community similarity by regressing pairwise parasite community dissimilarity between two hos...
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Accurately estimating infection prevalence is fundamental to the study of population health, disease dynamics, and infection risk factors. Prevalence is estimated as the proportion of infected individuals (“individual‐based estimation”), but is also estimated as the proportion of samples in which evidence of infection is detected (“anonymous estima...
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The transmission of infectious disease through a population is often modeled assuming that interactions occur randomly in groups, with all individuals potentially interacting with all other individuals at an equal rate. However, it is well known that pairs of individuals vary in their degree of contact. Here, we propose a measure to account for suc...
Article
The distribution of parasites across mammalian hosts is complex and represents a differential ability or opportunity to infect different host species. Here, we take a macroecological approach to investigate factors influencing why some parasites show a tendency to infect species widely distributed in the host phylogeny (phylogenetic generalism) whi...
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Objectives: Primates vary in their sleep durations and, remarkably, humans sleep the least per 24-hr period of the 30 primates that have been studied. Using phylogenetic methods that quantitatively situate human phenotypes within a broader primate comparative context, we investigated the evolution of human sleep architecture, focusing on: total sl...
Article
Many parasites and pathogens are transmitted via water, including through faecal contamination of water sources. Yet water is essential for survival, and some species gain nutritional and other benefits from coprophagy. We investigated how primates balance the risks of faecal pathogen transmission with potential benefits of faeces ingestion in thei...
Article
Estimating the number of host species that a parasite can infect (i.e. host range) provides key insights into the evolution of host specialism and is a central concept in disease ecology. Host range is rarely estimated in real systems, however, because variation in species relative abundance and the detection of rare species makes it challenging to...
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Background and objectives The skin harbors a dynamic community of microorganisms, where contact with humans, other animals and the environment can alter microbial communities. Most research on the human skin microbiome features Western populations living in hygienic conditions, yet these populations have vastly different patterns of environmental c...
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Despite the global distribution and public health consequences of Taenia tapeworms, the life cycles of taeniids infecting wildlife hosts remain largely undescribed. The larval stage of Taenia serialis commonly parasitizes rodents and lagomorphs, but has been reported in a wide range of hosts that includes geladas (Theropithecus gelada), primates en...