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Even fake illness affects relationships among vampire bats


As Italy urges tourists not to cancel their plans in the face of the coronavirus outbreak and a National Basketball Association memo reportedly encourages teammates to avoid hi-fives, a new study conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama takes a look at how social bonds change in response to illness in another highly social animal: the vampire bat. In these bats, just as in humans, strong family bonds were less affected by the appearance of disease than were weaker social relationships.

Vampire bats are an extremely social species. Their interactions range from grooming both family members and unrelated individuals, to saving another bat from starvation by sharing a regurgitated blood meal. MORE

Header image: How do social interactions change in the face of illness? As humans face potential global pandemics we look to nature for examples. Close observation of another highly social animal, the vampire bat, sheds light on how interactions change — or do not change — as individuals become sick. Credit: Rachel Page, STRI.

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