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Study: Having Friends Increases Disaster Survival Chances

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (UPI) — Living by the maxim “a friend in need is a friend indeed” can help some animals live through natural disasters, South African researchers say.

A study of Barbary macaques in Morocco, published in the journal Biology Letters, suggests those with lots of friends were more likely to have lived through an unusually harsh winter in 2008-09.

Endangered Barbary macaques are no strangers to cold, but the 2008–09 winter was devastating, with a 64 percent mortality rate, researchers reported.

The study showed the more friends a monkey had — measured in social contacts involving shared grooming or bodily contact — the better its chances of survival.

Monkeys with more friends had more opportunities to huddle against the cold, the researchers suggested, and those in large networks featuring social contact may have been able to look for food — seeds and grasses on the ground — with fewer interruptions from non-friended group members.

The more friends, the more chances of surviving a catastrophe, said Richard McFarland, a behavioral ecologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

An individual who loses his few close friends is “left with nothing” with which to cope with disaster, he said.

“Compare that to someone who has 10 relationships,” he said. “If one of their friends perishes during the winter, they still have nine more friends to go to.”

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