The dynamics of infectious disease spread depend on host population contact structure. Heterogeneities in this contact structure can arise from various forms of demographic and spatial phenomena. Craft et al. (this issue) have constructed an exploratory simulation model of the spread of canine distemper virus through a multispecies carnivore community. Each species in this community is modelled with a contact structure reflecting host social organization, ranging behaviour, and likely interspecific contact patterns. The results are used to infer the possible roles of different species in determining the observed spatio-temporal incidence of canine distemper virus in Serengeti lions during an outbreak in 1993–94.