Antisocial Marmots = Longer Life

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maverick
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Antisocial Marmots = Longer Life

Post by maverick » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:33 pm


Being Antisocial Leads to a Longer Life. For Marmots.


For many mammals, a busy social life can be an important contributor to a long life. But some animals need more alone time than others, and failure to get it could be lethal, according to new research.

Consider the marmot. After spending 13 years tracking their interactions and life spans in Colorado, Daniel T. Blumstein, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues found in a study published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B that yellow-bellied marmots with more active social lives tended to die younger than those that avoided interactions.

“The difference in life span between the most social and the least social marmot was about two years,” said Dr. Blumstein. That’s significant considering that the average life span of a yellow-bellied marmot is about 15 years.

Marmots are a genus of large, squirrel-like rodents with sharp claws and furry ears. They are known as socially flexible animals: They prefer to live solitary lives, but will peacefully coexist with each other if the habitat demands it.

“The yellow-bellied marmot is more social than other marmots, like the groundhog, but it doesn’t really want to be social,” said Dr. Blumstein.

If a yellow-bellied marmot population grows too large, leading to a strain on habitable space, a female yellow-bellied marmot will sometimes allow her daughters to settle nearby, and about half will accept the invitation. (Male offspring always disperse, Dr. Blumstein said.)

The marmot social activities the researchers tracked included sitting next to each other, foraging together, playing together and grooming one another. The marmots under observation lived in 11 separate colonies near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colo.

Why socializing might be detrimental to a marmot’s health is hard to say. Perhaps, Dr. Blumstein speculated, the animals are passing diseases among themselves. Maybe they are more likely to wake one another during hibernation, causing them to starve in the barren winter forest. Or perhaps time they spend socializing would be better spent looking out for predators. “There are a variety of plausible explanations,” he said. “I just don’t know what they are yet.”

The findings offer a contrast with other mammals. Many studies have shown that highly social animals — humans, dolphins, sheep — live longer if they maintain strong social networks.

“For humans, not being social is about as bad as smoking a pack or so of cigarettes a day,” Dr. Blumstein said.

Likewise, female baboons that form strong social bonds live longer than those that don’t, as do macaques with larger families.

For these animals, social bonds are believed to provide assistance in times of danger and a buffer against stress. In humans, social mores also provide a nudge toward healthier habits, like washing your hands and not eating out of the garbage.

The researchers said that the findings warrant further study into the social habits of seemingly antisocial animals, like pumas and bears. While such animals have earned a reputation for being hostile toward one another, perhaps — knowing that familiarity breeds mortality — their isolation could be driven by a desire to preserve the species.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/scie ... espan.html


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Re: Antisocial Marmots = Longer Life

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:47 pm

Must have been a marmot in my former life. :D

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Re: Antisocial Marmots = Longer Life

Post by bobby49 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:42 pm

We've probably all watched marmots from time to time. I was in Denali park, and I had hiked up to the ridge above the Eielson Visitor Center to photograph the mountain. Sadly, clouds were in the way. So, I just scanned around the nearby area looking for subjects. Suddenly I saw something moving in the rocks just 50 feet from me, so I looked more closely. There was one Hoary Marmot on a rock, and as I looked even closer through the long camera lens, I saw that it had some sort of respiratory problem. I continued to watch and snap a few shots. Then another similar marmot popped up beside the first one. They both stared off at the landscape for a minute or two. Then I saw the second marmot's paw come up. It placed the paw on the shoulder of the first marmot that was still wheezing. Now, we don't know if that was moral support, or sharing warmth on a cold day, or what sort of meaning that has in marmot culture. Whatever, I felt better about the intelligence and social ability of marmots.

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Re: Antisocial Marmots = Longer Life

Post by mrphil » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:01 am

bobby49 wrote:They both stared off at the landscape for a minute or two. Then I saw the second marmot's paw come up. It placed the paw on the shoulder of the first marmot that was still wheezing. Now, we don't know if that was moral support, or sharing warmth on a cold day, or what sort of meaning that has in marmot culture. Whatever, I felt better about the intelligence and social ability of marmots.
That's kind of a neat story, and I would like to think it was moral support and compassion for his friend. Maybe we're assigning human traits to them, but it makes me feel good, so I'll take it and think the best.

But I wonder if living longer as solitary creatures has to do more with the carrying capacity of the environment than anything else. The researcher from UCLA mentions mountain lions and bears for comparison of habits vs lifespan. As far as I've ever known, the main reason for their isolation is available food and what it takes to sustain them vs what's available (at least partially, carrying capacity: bigger animals need more food to sustain them). We've created cities and other concentrations of people that really couldn't exist in nature if everyone needed to forage to survive, and Nature has an interesting way of sorting out what it can provide, and how much of one species or another can exist within it, ie: the hierarchy of the food chain: lots of grass seeds, some berries and edible plants, 1,000 mice, 200 rabbits, 50 deer, 20 coyotes, 1 mountain lion... any more or any less, the balance has to shift in order to accommodate the changes. When you think about the diet of a marmot, and the fact that some of them exist in some pretty rugged environments wherein food is scarce or options limited, there's only so much lichen to go around on which one can thrive and any more of them would all collectively starve or be forced to move on. See ya, we'll all get together when it's time to mate.

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