Even rattlesnakes feel better with friends, study shows – DNyuz

Even rattlesnakes feel better with friends, study shows

Whether you’re at a party full of strangers, taking a crowded bus, or giving a speech, having a friend nearby can help ease your stress. This phenomenon is called social buffering, and it turns out other animals feel it too.

Rodents, birds,and monkeys have all been found to benefit from the buddy system. But the latest member to join the friendly crew may surprise you — rattlesnakes.

Researchers found that giving rattlesnakes a partner decreased their heart rate in stressful situations. The researchers published their results in today’s issue of the journal Frontiers In Ethology.

This study is the first to demonstrate that this social support occurs in reptiles, said Chelsea Martin, the PhD candidate and herpetologist at Loma Linda University who ran the study.

Martin and her team arrived at this conclusion by measuring the resting heart rates of 25 wild-caught, adult rattlesnakes and comparing that to their heart rate after being startled. The snakes that were left alone in the enclosure had significantly greater heart rates than snakes that were with a companion.

Martin says that heart rate can be a great measure of stress, because it is immediate and provides a hint to researchers about what’s going on inside the snake. Martin explained that the greater the heartbeat, the more stressed an animal will be.

Some rattlesnakes live alone in nature while others . live together. But even for snakes who normally lived alone, the researchers found the same results — when the animals were startled they had lower heart rates when around another snake.

So even though you might picture the snakes as solitary, tough types, Martin said they have an unjustifiably bad rap.

About 7,000-8,000 people are bit by venomous snakes annually, and roughly five die from snake bites each year in the US, according to the CDC. Martin explained that the snakes were not vicious. They are only defensive and bite when threatened.

Martin said that her research aims to show that snakes are complex creatures with inner lives that should be appreciated instead of feared.

“Oftentimes, we’re afraid of things because we don’t understand them. And so whenever we gain a better understanding, we can maybe be less afraid and learn to live in less fear of them. Martin added that studies such as this will hopefully help us humans to see how snakes and other animals are not that different.

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