NEWS: We Aren't the Only Ones Self-Isolating...
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
A new study has discovered that vampire bats practice self-isolation when they become sick. Bats are social mammals, living in tight colonies, sharing food, and grooming each other. The bats also call out to each other. Unfortunately, these close bonds also increase the risk of quick spread of infection.
The Panamanian Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute research team captured wild vampire bats and injected them with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which would trigger an immune response similar to that of a bacterial infection, without actually causing the illness. Researchers later injected the same group of bats with saline solution as a control and observed their behavior.
According to the study, sick mothers continued to take care of offspring, and healthy mothers also continued to care for sick offspring. In other words, social interactions with relatives were retained. However, social interactions between unrelated bats decreased. Bat callings and groomings were also recorded less frequently. The decrease in the interactions heavily reminded researchers of our own social distancing. Sebastian Stockamier, the lead researcher of the study, proposes, “It’s like us. When they are sick and feeling bad, they are not interested in social interactions." In effect, the spread of infection is also restricted.
Researchers were intrigued to find that the bats do not intentionally self-isolate. Instead, they merely feel too sick to interact with their friends and family, but the concept itself mirrors our current attempts at self-isolation. However, as America’s coronavirus cases and fatalities soar due to disregard for social distancing procedures, researchers note that this animal behavior may have some things in store for us to learn.
Rebecca Cho is a staff writer at The Incandescent Review and a high school writer from Jericho, New York. Follow her Instagram @becca_cho1020.