Not alone at all. Scientists have discovered that marsupials hid their social life for millions of years
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be more extensive social interactions than previously thought.
Mammals are thought to have a wide range of social organization systems. However, marsupials, which are a subgroup of mammals, have traditionally been considered mostly loners. A new study shows that scientists were very wrong, writes Science News.
Scientists have previously known that, for example, some species of kangaroos form temporary or permanent groups of dozens of individuals. However, long-term unions between female and male marsupials were considered rare. In addition, the researchers did not have examples of cooperation between group members to raise offspring. In earlier work, researchers assumed that 90% of marsupials lead a solitary lifestyle.
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However, new research by Jinyu Qiu and colleagues, behavioral ecologist at CNRS in Strasbourg, France, suggests that marsupials actually have a much more social life than we might think.
Qiu and colleagues have done extensive work: collected data from 120 studies of 149 populations of 65 marsupial species. As a result, they classified each population as one of three:
- living in pairs;
- living in groups (for example, one male and several females or vice versa, several males and females, same-sex groups).
As a result, the researchers found:
- 31% (19 species) of the studied species live alone;< /li>
- nearly 50% always live in pairs or groups.
In addition, the researchers found that there is a lot of variation within species, for example, more than 40% (27 or 65 species) can fall into several classifications at the same time.
After considering social variability depending on climatic conditions in Australia, scientists concluded that it is more common in a drier environment. It is hypothesized that marsupials may use the switch between solitary and group life as a buffer against climate.
In addition, Qiu and colleagues performed computer analysis and compared marsupial evolutionary relationships with how they form social bonds. As a result, the researchers were able to predict the social organization of the earliest marsupials, which diverged from placental mammals about 160 million years ago. Previously, scientists believed that marsupials, like their ancient ancestors, were solitary, but now researchers will have to reconsider this theory.
Researchers believe that it is more likely that only a little more than a third of marsupial ancestors led a solitary life, while 65 % still combined it with the group one.
Note that not all scientists agree with the study. For example, Robert Voss, a mammologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, believes there is too little evidence. According to him, the results largely depend on what criteria scientists used to understand the degree of social behavior of marsupials.