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Social Distancing and Social Creatures

April 22, 2020

Social Distancing and Social Creatures

- as seen by -

Jason M. Aloisio Jason M. Aloisio

During the four years I that worked at WCS’s Prospect Park Zoo, the black-tailed prairie dogs stationed at the entrance to the Discovery Trail always welcomed me and put a smile on my face.

True to form, this Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus) immediately brought a much-needed smile to my face, as I pedaled alone on my bike for 100 miles through the relentless dry heat of the Mexican Plateau in the state of Nuevo Leon.

Mexican prairie dogs, endemic to Mexico and classified as endangered by the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, are only found on the Mexican Plateau, in areas characterized by distinct gypsum-rich soils, which appear white because of a high concentration of calcium sulfate.

These animals are highly social and would probably have a tough time social distancing if they were told to self-isolate. For example, one friendly behavior they exhibit is described as a “greet-kiss”, in which two individuals touch tongues when they meet.

Greet-kissing, albeit on the check, is common among humans, too, but as the coronavirus spreads through the United States and the world, self-isolating and foregoing this friendly shared-behavior might be the best course of action.

Instead let’s all namaste when we greet each other.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason cycled from the Bronx Zoo through Central and South America from October 2019 to March 2020. His trip ended early as COVID-19 became a pandemic. He is safe and back in New York.


Mexican Plateau , Mexico Map It


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