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Study: Animals Follow Social Distancing To Prevent Contraction Of Microbes

A new study by UTSA researchers has revealed that animals have long followed social distancing rules when it comes to microorganisms found in their gut.

Study

Amid the unprecedented outbreak of deadly coronavirus, maintaining social distance has been one of the most touted methods to prevent the contraction of COVID-19 disease. While lockdowns have been imposed across the world, a new study has revealed that animals have long followed a physical distance when it comes to microorganisms found in their gut. According to researchers at UTSA, they have unveiled evidence that proves that monkeys living in the wild have also followed the basic rules of genetics, diet, social groupings based on the microbes found inside an animal’s gut. 

Eva Wikberg, an assistant professor in Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)  and who reportedly also studies the interaction between ecology, behaviour and genetics in primates has said that the transmission in monkeys runs parallel to the current situation of the global health crisis and the understanding of social distancing. The findings of the study were published in the May issue of the Journal Animal Behaviour. 

"Social microbial transmission among monkeys can help inform us about how diseases spread. This has parallels to our current situation in which we are trying to understand how social distancing during the COVID 19 pandemic and future disease outbreaks may influence disease transmission," said Wikberg.

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Other findings of the research

Since tracking microorganisms in animal’s gut has been a challenge in the past, the researchers still dove into it by studying the faecal matter of at least 45 female colobus monkeys that belonged to eight different social groups in small forests of Boabeng and Fiema in Ghana. The scientists were able to locate major differences in the microorganisms found in monkeys belonging to different groups. Moreover, the more connected social groups had still similarities among the organisms in their gut. This indicated that the microbes might be subjected to transmission due to occasional encounters with members in other groups. 

"Studies of wild animals can teach us a lot about the importance of using interventions, such as social distancing, to ensure a safer community during this pandemic," said Wikberg.

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