When Illness Strikes, Vampire Bat Moms Will Still Socialize With Their Kids
by Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com
Infections don’t just wreak havoc on the body: They put a serious damper on social lives, too. But for every casual coffee date or game night lost to the misery of malady, there’s usually a close friend or family member who’s willing to stick by their loved ones through even the worst illnesses—germs and all.
This heartwarming trope, long known to be true in humans, may dictate infectious interactions between vampire bats, too, new research shows. When these bitty blood-sippers are feeling under the weather, they still cozy up to the closest of kin to exchange food and groom each other—even after they’ve stopped extending some of those same courtesies to casual acquaintances.
The findings, published recently in the Journal of Animal Ecology, do more than offer a stirring glimpse into the enduring bonds between vampire bats, who stick together in sickness and in health. By examining how illness alters social behaviors, they could also reveal how infectious diseases ripple through close-knit populations—and which individuals might play the biggest roles in passing pathogens along.