American crows are sometimes attracted to the bodies of dead crows, which rather dings their reputation as Earth's smartest birds. Photo: Kaeli Swift

Some animal species respond to the emergence of new diseases by social distancing from other members of their species.

The big picture: Social distancing remains the most direct way to reduce the spread of disease, as we've discovered with COVID-19. The behavior may be so basic to survival that some animals do it instinctually — a model skeptical human beings might want to follow.

What's new: In a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, researchers reviewed studies from across the animal kingdom — including ones involving human beings — to see how members of a species behaved toward each other in the face of novel diseases.

  • Caribbean spiny lobsters were more likely to den alone in the presence of another lobster infected by the Panulirus argus virus 1.
  • On the other hand, grey wolves showed no evidence of isolating themselves to protect against infections of sarcoptic mange, in part because the harm of the disease was outweighed by the long-term survival benefits of remaining with the pack.

Be smart: Whether or not animals socially distanced appears to come down to balancing the risk posed by the pathogen with the clear negative effects of isolation.

  • That goes for human beings as well, whose responses "vary with the actual or perceived vulnerability to disease," the researchers write.

The bottom line: With a new disease like COVID-19, it's difficult for even the smartest animals in the world — us, at least currently — to properly gauge their vulnerability, and therefore decide whether or not to socially distance.

Go deeper: Wild animals roam in cities under coronavirus lockdown

Go deeper

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 32,626,165 — Total deaths: 990,134 — Total recoveries: 22,523,822Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 7,040,313 — Total deaths: 203,918 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,488,275Map.
  3. States: U.S. reports over 55,000 new coronavirus cases — "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer — The long-term pain of the mental health pandemicFewer than 10% of Americans have coronavirus antibodies.
  5. Business: Millions start new businesses in time of coronavirus.
  6. Education: Summer college enrollment offers a glimpse of COVID-19's effect.

America on edge as unrest rises

Louisville on Wednesday. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Rarely have national security officials, governors, tech CEOs and activists agreed as broadly and fervently as they do about the possibility of historic civil unrest in America.

Why it matters: The ingredients are clear for all to see — epic fights over racism, abortion, elections, the virus and policing, stirred by misinformation and calls to action on social media, at a time of stress over the pandemic.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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The long-term pain of the mental health pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A less visible but still massive trauma caused by the coronavirus is becoming clear: our mental health is suffering with potentially long-lasting consequences.

Why it matters: Mental health disorders that range from schizophrenia to depression and anxiety exert a severe cost on personal health and the economy. Addressing that challenge may require out-of-the-box solutions.