Social distancing is one of the most recommended measures to stop COVID-19 infections. But did you know that some animals already do it to protect their community? Yes, this time we will talk about 5 animals that isolate themselves when they have been exposed to a pathogen, even before they show symptoms.
In a new study in the journal Science, it is revealed that some animals send signals to their communities and isolate themselves to avoid infecting all members of their colony, even when it poses a danger to sick individuals.
It’s interesting what they discovered about termites and ants: that just 15 minutes after being exposed to a pathogen, even before they were properly infected, they send warning signals to members of their community.
When some species of termites are exposed to fungal spores, they begin to vibrate so that their companions know that they should be avoided or clean their entire nest. The latter can help fight the infection before it causes much damage.
Ants also act quickly when exposed to fungi. When an ant becomes infected with fungi, it may withdraw from its colony within hours of exposure. Yes, the ant is ingsed as a response to its disease.
In addition, as a health measure, those infected cocoons are eliminated.
3. Vampire bats
Vampire bats do something similar, although much less extreme than termites or ants. Sick vampire bats have prolonged lethargy or drowsiness as an immune response to infection. This reduces contact with others.
At other times, the group is the one who abandons the patient. Vampires notice when a specimen is sick and avoid it; just like humans we realize someone is emaciated and coughing, and we walk away from him.
4. Caribbean spiny lobsters
Spiny lobsters in the Caribbean act is similarly to vampire bats. When healthy lobsters detect a sick one, they consider leaving the den. However, this is not an easy decision, since when they leave their lair they become easy prey to their predators and lose their group protection. But if the virus is lethal, it’s well worth taking a risk and leaving the lair to avoid a deadly epidemic.
Bees are much more extreme in slowing down the spread of a disease. In order to protect the hive, which is very important to them, it is known that healthy bees force sick bees to isolate themselves, sometimes forcing them out of the hive.
How humans respond to an outbreak
The study authors explain that forced quarantine has not been demonstrated experimentally in mammals, although there is evidence in some primates of doing so. However, in the case of humans it remains an important health measure against infections caused by pathogens such as Ebola and SARS.
In the history of human epidemics, it is difficult to determine when isolation is voluntary or imposed. Although it is thought to have a bit of both.
The authors acknowledge that humans are not the only ones who find ourselves in need of isolation. In a sense, we are not alone in dealing with social distancing, something that also costs the animals we saw, which are eusocial beings.
We shouldn’t anthropomorphize animals, that is, give them human characteristics. Still, we can learn a lot from them.
One of the lessons we learn is to act fast when there is an outbreak and see the common good.
What do you think?