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Prairie Voles Can Also Show Empathy

Prairie voles become anxious if their partner is anxious and they try to sooth them

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Although it was thought that feelings like empathy can be felt only by large-brained animals, it turns out that prairie voles can also show empathy.

We know that animal’s senses are very good but we usually don’t put much thought into what they feel, thinking that they probably don’t have feelings like we do. How can an animal feel love, for example? But let’s stop flattering ourselves because we are not that special. Animals have feelings too and it turns out that even the tiny ones can share love, such as rodents.

A study was conducted on prairie voles, which are very social animals and generally monogamous. When one animal from a pair was feeling distress, the other one started to feel anxious as well. Therefore, we may say they empathize with each other because they are able to mirror the other vole’s feelings.

But they don’t stop here. Seeing their partners are not well, the voles start consoling them by touching and grooming. Similar to humans, voles use soothing movements to make their partners feel better.

After observing this, the researchers also studied the rodents’ limbic systems. They discovered that the level of corticosterone, the hormone of stress was very high in the voles after the incident. This means they actually became stressed out when seeing their partner was not well.

Moreover, their oxytocin level was also quite high. Oxytocin is also popularly known as the “love hormone” and it is believed to be present in all mammals. This means that all mammals can feel love in one way or another.

However, voles didn’t care much about strangers. Even if they saw another vole in distress, which wasn’t they’re partner, they were less likely to help or console them. On the other hand, the same study was conducted on meadow voles. These animals are not as social as the ones in the prairie and showed not empathic behavior.

After hearing about the findings of the study, PETA has now even more reasons to go against those who harm animals, as they have feelings too.

Previous studies also pointed to the fact that prairie voles may have feelings and even experience a kind of romantic love towards their sexual partners, while they are pretty much indifferent to other members of the opposite sex.

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