The valuable lesson squirrels teach us about life in society. One study has revealed that living close to the same neighbors over the years has significant positive impacts on the lives of squirrels.
Although these rodents are solitary and territorial, a study that analyzed the behavior of 1,009 red squirrels from the Yukon region (Canada) over 22 years suggests that these animals have a greater probability of survival and a greater number of young when they live near the same neighbors year after year.
The findings, which were published in the scientific journal Current Biology, revealed that the observed benefits do not depend on the parental ties between squirrels, but are related to the familiarity between the animals or the time during which the same squirrels live close to each other.
Scientists found that the benefits are even more remarkable when it comes to older squirrels. Research showed that older animals are able to counteract the effects of aging if they support all of their neighbors over the years.
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As part of the research, the specialists conducted tests to ensure that the results obtained reflected the effects of familiarity between neighbors, rather than a particularly good habitat or low risk of being attacked by predators.
Erin Siracusa, lead author of the study, said that these squirrels can teach us a lesson about the value of social relationships.
“Red squirrels don’t like their neighbors. They are in constant competition with them for food, companions, and resources. However, they have to get along to survive. In the world right now, we see a lot of conflict and division, but perhaps this is a lesson worth taking into account: red squirrels need their neighbors and maybe we do too”explains Siracusa.
The findings could help to better understand the evolution of territorial systems, as well as shed light on territorial behaviors and the reasons behind them.