Social distancing works with ants, bats, other animals – and so it must be for humans

By Antonio Manaytay

People seem having a hard time to believe social distancing could help contain the spread of coronavirus. They should learn from ants, vampire bats, and other animals.

Long before COVID-19, social animals practiced social distancing to preserve themselves when disease hits their colony.

Disease ecologists said animals such as birds, lobsters, monkeys and many others maintain social distancing when confronted with an outbreak.

Various studies on animal behavior showed that animals keep themselves healthy by keeping a distance from a sick member.

Animals, however, have a variety of responses to avoid infection—social distancing is one of them.


The world reels from COVID-19 disrupting the way people live as the deadly contagion spread like wildfire.

Given the limited options in the absence of a vaccine, experts at World Health Organization (WHO) scrambled to find ways how to stop the plague.

Nature never runs out of models how to preserve the population from extinction.

Even social insects such as ants practiced social distancing when faced with an outbreak.

Ant colonies are like dormitories where they live closely with each other. These colonies are vulnerable to contagious diseases.

But ants, studies have shown, change their behaviors during an outbreak to prevent transmission. The sick imposed self-isolation while the healthy ants limit their interaction with other ants.

Other animals

Like ants, other animals have also socially distance from each other when diseases sweeps their environment.

This behavior, however, differs from one type of animal to the other.

Mandrills, for instance, practiced social distancing only if the sick do not belong to their family. For fellow family members who are sick, they care.

Among bats, this practice takes a different slant.

Although they continue to feed their sick group members but they do not groom them. In this way, experts believed, they lessen their interaction with the sick.

Same patterns, but with difference

In more ways than not, humans behave like the animals do when faced with a deadly contagion.

The responses to COVID-19 bear the same patterns. One of the preventive protocols of COVID-19 is to protect the old people and those with pre-existing conditions.

Like ants and bats, to prevent the spread of the virus, people had lessened their non-essential interactions with other while caring for their own family members.

Humans only distinguish themselves with the animals during the pandemic by caring also for others such as friends and other community members.

Also, animals rely on their instinct in detecting a sick member. Humans have gone a long way with all the detection technologies at their disposals.

Fortunately, humans can still maintain their interactions even during an outbreak. The internet through its many platforms is, in this sense, a blessing for humans. (Mindanao Sun)

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