Sick vampire bats also practice social distancing.
Scientists have conducted a new study on the behavior of vampire bats. They have found that when they feel sick, these animals also distance themselves from their peers.
Previous work had already shown a change in behavior in sick captive specimens. They had shown that the latter sleep more, move less, spend less time grooming their peers – an activity that is nevertheless essential – and emit less social cries. Scientists call this “sickness behavior”.
All these observations had nevertheless been collected in captivity. That’s why they conducted a new experiment on sick vampire bats.
In the time of Covid-19, social distancing has become one of the essential gestures in trying to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. But humans aren’t the only ones to distance themselves when they get sick. This is also the case with other animals such as chimpanzees and bees, as scientists pointed out a few months ago. Bats can now be added to the list of cautious species.
At least that’s what scientists reveal in a study on sick vampire bats. By carrying out an experiment on vampire bats, they found that when they felt sick, they interacted little with other vampire bats. Unusual behavior for these normally very social mammals!
The researchers looked at a colony of common vampire bats living within a hollow tree in Lamanai, Belize. After capturing 31 females, they divided them into two groups: the first received a molecule inducing an immune change, while the second was given a placebo solution. All subjects were then released and their social behavior was monitored for three days, using mini sensors.
Compared to “control” individuals, sick vampire bats associated on average with far fewer congeners, during the 6 treatment period and spent 25 minutes less interacting with each partner. During the same period, meetings also appeared shorter between two individuals, when one of them was ill.
48 hours later, once the treatment wore off, the bats that were doing better, resumed more normal behavior, according to the study.
Shocking though it may seem, but the news is that sick vampire bats also practice social distancing.