2
$\begingroup$

It's my first question on here, so I'm not sure If my question fits the theme. Please refer me to the appropriate one, If I have made a mistake.

So a question that I wanted to ask has to do with whether or not animals potentially try to avoid spreading diseases. So I was thinking... In an event that a really deadly disease emerges in a population, it would be really dangerous for animals that live in social groups, of any size really, not to have any instinctual behaviours that try and prevent the disease to spread. Animals that live in big heads, like wildebeests would just probably leave the diseased individuals behind, apes and monkey could potentially cast out individuals from the group, etc. Ants have separate sections in their tunnels that serve as graveyards, I presume for this exact purpose.

A lot of parasitic organisms have adaptations that specifically target animals with social behaviour, so why wouldn't animals adapt against that?

Something that also came to my mind is that this could possibly evolve not as a social behaviour of a group, but sometimes that individuals in a group would do, for example self isolation. However, I do not find this likely, I possibly requires higher cognitive understanding of disease spread.

Am I way of base here? If not, could you please provide some interesting examples you are familiar with.

Please consider that I AM NOT a biologist, nor have any experience in the field. I am a computer scientist, who enjoys biology. If any of my axioms or hypothesis have don't even come close to reality, please be kind, I am not educated in this field. Thank you for reading

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Humans lived in tribe systems like animals and were protected from pandemics, until very big cities and the start of globalization... yersinia pestis was one of the first to arrive by boat in constantinople in 4AD, they were walking on dead "like pressing raisins under the feet"... American indians were protected because they lived in tribe structures, from old world illnesses. Generally, animals often live more like tribes than pan regional societies. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2023 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ If only we had an anthropology stack. Not an answer, as I can't find any references to the practice for this use-case, but I've heard tell of tribal practices/customs of abandoning the elderly/frail under times of hardship - the same may have extended to various forms of sickness. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2023 at 4:27

2 Answers 2

1
$\begingroup$

Taking the evolution angle, some anti-transmission behavior may be hardwired (not requiring human-level intellect) e.g. an infection usually means symptoms like (high) fever, malaise, fatigue, lethargy (mental + physical) which, combined, leave the infected person bedridden and the less you can move around in the environment, the lower the chances of you spreading the infection. Sick leave? Modern, scientifically justified methods of breaking the transmission chain, e.g. isolation/quarantine/immunization, are ultimately extensions of natural behavior found also in nonhuman animals (in response to infections). The "objective", if we could call it that, of bodily response when under assault from a pathogen, is to immobilize (e.g. severe case of the flu) or die (ebola hemorrhagic fever), both being variations on quarantine.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I like the question, and it's an area I've given some thought to. My answer is "yes." Yes, animals have adapted behaviors to avoid getting sick from disease. There's not much motivation for an infected individual to avoid spreading it, except perhaps to avoid spreading it to closely-related individuals. Nor is there a mechanism for the behavior to evolve, since the sick individual isn't going to have as many (any) grandbabies. That said, GROOMING is a great example of an evolved behavior that is almost universally done between mother mammals and their babies, and between close adult individuals in some species. It could be affectionate disease-prevention.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .