14 February 2011

Researchers discover prairie dogs become more affectionate when watched by humans

Prairie dogs are remarkable creatures that are known for their social nature and complex communication. Now, the BBC reports scientists have found that prairie dogs are guilty of a little PDA.

Adam Eltorai, from Washington University, and other researchers studied 25 prairie dogs at the Saint Louis Zoo, and observed that prairie dogs tend to kiss and cuddle each other more when humans are watching them.

"When more people were watching, the adult prairie dogs became much more affectionate, kissing and touching more and fighting less," said Dr. Eltorai.

The research team claims that while the adult prairie dogs became more loving when watched, the young prairie dogs became tense and less affectionate.

"It is possible that young prairie dogs are just behaving like any other rambunctious youngsters, so the added 'stress' of the visitors may simply amplify the animals' normal behaviours," Dr. Eltorai continued.

These kisses that the rodents share are extremely human-like and consist of two prairie dogs touching mouths, and occasionally have been seen using their tongues.

Read more about the study and additional information here.

Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/fraleigh