Prairie Dogs Give a Little Tongue to Say Hello
It seems that prairie dogs are prone to public displays of affection, particularly when more people are watching. Researchers studying the cuddly rodents discovered the behavior after studying 25 black-tailed prairie dogs at the St. Louis Zoo. They also observed that the prairie dogs pressed their tongues together in a “greeting kiss,” to show affection.
The researchers hope their observations will help other researchers differentiate between animals' behavior while being watched and their “normal” behavior. The scientists counted the number of zoo visitors as they recorded their observations.
"When more people were watching, the adult prairie dogs became much more affectionate, kissing and touching more and fighting less," said Dr. Adam Eltorai from Washington University in St. Louis.
Scientists believe this research could help build better enclosures for zoo animals. In the case of prairie dogs, the animals seem to be enriched by human attention, so they may be getting more visibility to keep them happy and affectionate.
Photo Credits: Beth Davidow/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis | D. Robert & Lorri Franz/CORBIS | Peter Burian/Corbis |