Wildlife 'Social Distancing' Comes Nature-ally

Humans had to be instructed about the necessity for 'social distancing.' It was a behavior foreign to us. But in the animal kingdom, this type of engagement, or should I say "disengagement" is innate. Here's why?

It comes naturally. . .

It comes naturally to the likes of chimpanzees and honeybees. They enforce strict measures to prevent the spread of A disease. However, as noted previously in my blog, titled: "Are Our Pets Susceptible To Coronavirus?" COVID-19 is a virus that does not affect animals. Humans can transmit interspecies, but they cannot be infected by a pet or animal. Nonetheless, 'social distancing' is not a novel concept, as infections and diseases can be determined in the wild, inherently.

In fact, several social species will expel fellow members of their community if they are infected with a pathogen. Through specialized senses these animals can detect certain diseases — sometimes before visible symptoms appear — and will modify their behavior to avoid getting infected themselves.

Honeybees & Chimpanzees

Honeybees and chimpanzees, for instance, can be merciless when it comes to expelling the sick from their respective communities.

Bacterial diseases that infect honeybee colonies, like American foulbrood (AFB), are particularly devastating, liquifying honeybee larvae from the inside. AFB is caused by spore-forming bacteria and is a highly infectious bee disease.

Infected larvae emit certain telltale chemicals that older bees can smell, like oleic acid and β-ocimene, a bee pheromone. According to North Carolinian epidemiologist Alison McAfee’s research, once identified, bees will physically push these diseased members out from the hive.

In 1966, Jane Goodall found — while studying chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park — a chimpanzee named McGregor who had contracted polio, caused by a highly contagious virus.

His fellow chimps turned on him and banished him from their societal home. When this paralyzed chimp approached chimps grooming in a tree. Sadly being starved for social engagement, he extended his hand in a greeting, but was shunned once again.

“For a full two minutes old [McGregor] sat motionless, staring after them,” Goodall notes in her 1971 book In the Shadow of Man.

Similar to humans, chimps are visual creatures, and in study after study, it shows that the initial stigma toward polio-infected chimps may be driven by fear and disgust of their disfigurement—which is itself part of the strategy for avoiding and catching the disease that causes deformations.


Overall, unlike us, animals don't realize "if they stay home, they might actually reduce the transmission rate," said Joseph Kiesecker, the lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy. “As humans, we have that ability. It’s a big difference.”

And I might add that it's a reminder to us humans to follow the rules delegated to us by our federal and state authorities. Hope you are well in abiding these new restrictions to help us flatten the curve for survival from COVID-19.

Stay safe my readers.


Primary Source: National Geographic