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This story originally appeared on Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
The current guidance on social distancing “rung familiar,” Stroeymeyt said, “because I’ve been seeing it among the ants.
Such insights are at the heart of a burgeoning field of insect research that some scientists say could help humans imagine a more pandemic-resilient society.
That rarely happens, social insect researchers say, and vast colonies of such species are somehow able to limit the spread of contagions.
Others, including simple immunization-like behavior and forms of insect social distancing, can seem eerily familiar.
Put together, they form a kind of parallel epidemiology that might provide insights for human societies battling pathogens of their own–even if, so far, human epidemiologists don’t pay much attention to the field.
Still, those insights are what Rosengaus and some other researchers are now exploring.
While social insects have been the subject of intense scientific scrutiny for more than a century, the threat of pathogens and other parasites, researchers say, was long overlooked.
“The mainstream social insect research has ignored parasites for a very long time,” said Paul Schmid-Hempel, an experimental ecologist at the Swiss public research university ETH Zurich.
He began to formulate questions that would help launch a small field: What if pathogens were not an incidental nuisance to colonies, but a profound threat that shaped the very evolution of their societies?.