Humans aren’t he only animals who benefit from having someone to count on
By Susan Gaidos
Agood friend will make you laugh, defend you in an argu- ment, cheer you on when you’re doing well and cheer
you up when you’re feeling sad. Best
buds can be good for your health, too.
Maintaining close relationships means
less stress and a longer life.
And you don’t even have to be human.
Just as with people, animals of other
sorts can benefit from having a BFF. New
studies show that animals with someone
they can count on — to get them out of a
scrape, share food or deliver a kind gesture — are more likely to reproduce and
are better at fighting disease.
Such findings suggest that the need for
a trusted, dependable companion goes
way back in time. If so, friendship may
confer evolutionary advantages.
“It’s beginning to look like a strong,
evolutionarily ancient phenomenon
that’s shared by many social species,”
says Dorothy Cheney, a biologist at the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who has studied primate relationships for four decades.
Many of the behaviors that hint at
animal friendships have been observed
in the field. Studies of monkeys, horses
and chimpanzees reveal that individuals are selective about whom they spend
time with or feed near. Some male chimpanzees are more likely to hang out
together, groom each other, share meat
and accompany one another on hunts
or border patrols. Female baboons will
groom some peers more than others,
and are more likely to come to the aid of
someone who recently groomed them.
Further studies find that female
baboons closely bonded to a few other
females have more surviving offspring
and often live longer. Similar results
have been found in elephants, dolphins
and rodents, as well as in horses and