Ebola and other filoviruses pose significant public health and conservation threats by causing high mortality in primates, including humans. Preventing future outbreaks of ebolavirus depends on identifying wildlife reservoirs, but extraordinarily high biodiversity of potential hosts in temporally dynamic environments of equatorial Africa contributes to sporadic, unpredictable outbreaks that have hampered efforts to identify wild reservoirs for nearly 40 years.

As the frequency and prevalence of zoonotic diseases increase worldwide, investigating how mammal host distributions determine patterns of human disease and predicting which regions are at greatest risk for future zoonotic disease emergence are two goals which both require better understanding of the current distributions of zoonotic hosts and pathogens. We review here the existing data about mammalian host species, comparing and contrasting these patterns against global maps of zoonotic hosts from all 27 orders of terrestrial mammals.

Animal migrations are often spectacular, and migratory species harbor zoonotic pathogens of importance to humans. Animal migrations are expected to enhance the global spread of pathogens and facilitate cross-species transmission.