The term ‘social distancing’ may be relatively new to us humans, but it is actually a standard practice for some animals, including the vampire bat, when they are sick.
As per a study published in Behavioral Ecology recently, wild vampire bats distance themselves naturally from other bats when they are sick.
There are previous findings that reveal that animals resort to social distancing in such situations, however, researchers in the study planned to conduct a field experiment to confirm the same.
“In certain social insects, sick ones might self-isolate voluntarily or be excluded by their colony mates,” CNN quoted researchers as saying. “This sickness-induced social distancing does not require cooperation from others and is probably common across species.”
What was the experiment?
As many as 31 wild adult female vampire bats were captured by a team of researchers inside a hollow tree in Belize. Half of these bats were then injected with an immune-challenging substance to simulate sickness, while the other half received a placebo.
Sensors were then glued to the “sick” bats to track their movements before being released back into the tree to be observed.
What were the results?
The sick bats, throughout the six-hour period when they were observed, spent less time socially connected to the healthy bats — which is exactly what we humans are being urged to do by health experts amid the ongoing pandemic.
The results showed that compared to the healthy bats, the sick bats had an average of four fewer associations. They spent 25 fewer minutes socializing.
While the healthy bats showed a 49% likelihood of associating with others, the sick bats had a 35% chance of spending time in the vicinity of other bats.
“The sensors gave us an amazing new window into how the social behavior of these bats changed from hour to hour and minute to minute … even while they are hidden in the darkness of a hollow tree,” said the study’s lead author, Simon Ripperger, in a statement. “We’ve gone from collecting data every day to every few seconds.”
Humans have a lot to learn from the environment to lead a healthy life, indeed!
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