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Social Distancing in Animals: Does it work too?!

Animals usually surprise us by their attitude and behavior. As long as people are still learning to practice social distancing, animals have been practicing it for thousands of years.

To prevent the spread of several contagious diseases within the same colony, many examples of animals use their inherent behavior in social distancing.

Social Distancing in Ants

Social Distancing in Ants

Hundreds or even thousands of ants live together in the same colony. These can facilitate the spread of any contagious disease, but the innate behavior of the infected ants and the other healthy ants can prevent disease transmission:

  • Once infected, sick ants isolate themselves from the colony; also, healthy ants decrease their contact with them.

  • Healthy ants protect the queen and nurses altogether by keeping them away from foragers (ants that collect food) as they can transmit germs to the colony.

These natural behaviors can protect healthy ants and keep them safe.


Social Distancing in Honeybees

American Foulbrood (a fatal bacterial disease) may infect the honeybees, and it can liquefy the honeybee larvae too.

Before the appearance of the symptoms, older bees can smell certain odors that emit from the infected larvae.

The release of certain chemicals (oleic acid and β-ocimene) is the main reason for this unpleasant smell.   

In response to this awful smell, honeybees throw the infected members out of the hive to protect their colony!

Social Distancing in Tadpoles

Social Distancing in Tadpoles

Through specific chemical signals, tadpoles can detect fatal yeast infection in other members. And to prevent the transmission of the infection, healthy tadpoles avoid contact with the infected members.

Caribbean Spiny Lobsters

Social Distancing in Caribbean Spiny Lobsters

Caribbean spiny lobsters can detect the infected member before getting contagious (able to infect other members).

A deadly virus, known as “Panulirus argus Mininuceovirus” can infect lobsters. And after eight weeks, lobsters become contagious.

But the healthy members can detect the infected lobster in the fourth week by smelling certain chemicals from the infected member.

In this way, other lobsters can protect themselves from contracting this fatal virus.

Mandrill Monkey

Social Distance in Mandrill Monkey

Mandrills only take care of their sick family members; on the other hand, they avoid contact with sick individuals to whom they are not related.

Vampire Bats 

Social Distance in Vampire Bats

Although vampire bats avoid sick individuals to reduce the contagion risk, they provide sick members with food. These may keep social support between the sick individual and the other group members.

Choosing  the Right Partner

Not only humans have specific criteria to choose their partner, but some animals also have definite criteria!

For example, female house mice usually choose healthy male mice for mating.

female mouse can detect the parasitic infection in her partner through its urine smell. And once detected, the female mouse looks for another healthy partner for mating.

Finally, the natural behavior of animals in either choosing a healthy partner for mating or avoiding the infected animal by applying social distancing can protect the healthy members and enhance the genetic traits of their offspring too.

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