Research suggests social mammals live longer

In the research called ‘Correlated evolution of social organization and lifespan in mammals‘, researchers suggest that mammals that are naturally social and live in groups, might live longer than solitary mammals like hedgehogs and they also hint that social lives and life span are evolutionary linked.

The research analyzed the life spans and social lives of nearly a 1000 mammalian species. The maximmum life spans range from about two years for some shrew species (closely related to tenrecs) to roughly 200 years for Bowhead whales.

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Hedgehogs and tenrecs are solitary animals… right?

This is a question that a lot of people ask after seeing owners and breeders keeping hedgehogs and tenrecs in pairs or sometimes even in groups and the short answer is: yes, they are. Both hedgehogs and tenrecs are solitary animals that in their natural habitat, hardly ever socialize. If they’re not planning to mate, they rather avoid their peers. Males can even fight to the death over their territory. But females are another story. While they usually don’t socialize, they do tolerate other females within their territory and they often migrate between territories of different males in order to have more success are procreating. Not only do they do that, they also mate with different males to create more genetic diversity within the gene pool. Hedgehogs and tenrecs are very similar in this sense and this applies to both groups of animals.

In captivity, this portrays in males often having issues when placed together. It is done by some, but it is disapproved by the majority of owners because of their natural instincts. However, females are very often housed together and in some countries this even is the default. And what a lot of owners see, is that females don’t just tolerate eachother: they sleep, eat and even have same-sex sexual relationships with eachother. Though some times issues do occur and there are established hierarchies, the overal concensus in captivity is that females are relatively social for a solitary species. This raises the question of hedgehogs and tenrecs being true solitary animals or if they really are solitary-but-social: a term used for solitary animals of which females have overlapping territories and often sleep together.

Article by Judith Dunkirk.

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