Riblet#25: Stay Safe. Be a Vampire.

Risk management is all about achieving success, or at least it is meant to be.  And success is whatever you define it to be.  It can simply be survival.  And the natural world provides many examples of strategies for survival.

When it comes to dealing with infections, vampire bats appear to deal with them effectively: they immediately socially distance. Vampire bats are highly social and they form strong ties within their colony, not just with those they are related to.  Socialising includes grooming and sharing food. Studies have recently been performed on captive vampire bat populations in Panama to see how they react to disease.  In these studies, some of the bats in a colony were injected with a component of cell walls, LPS, which induces an immune response that makes the bats feel and act as if they were ill.  Researchers then recorded the calls that the bats made initiating social contact, and observed their behaviour. Those that had been injected made far fewer calls to initiate social contact, they were more physically isolated, and took no part in grooming other than with their own offspring.  However, the bats appeared to continue to share food, thus helping those infected to survive.

It is tempting to conclude that vampire bats are smarter than some humans when it comes to reducing the risk of passing on infections…

Data SourceThe Journal of Animal Ecology.

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