15 Animals Who Invented Social Distancing

‘Red pandas tend to interact only for mating purposes’—actually, that sounds ideal right now

Photo: Diana Parkhouse via Unsplash

Getting stuck in a Wikipedia rabbit hole — clicking from page to page as you absorb layers of information you didn’t anticipate wanting in the first place — is a true simple pleasure of modern life. It was one such Wikipedia browsing session that inspired this list; in turn, as well as hopefully making you smile, I’ve linked to the pages of each animal to spur on your own perusal should you be staying home for reasons of public safety, and needing a low-stakes diversion to occupy yourself.

As always, we have so much to learn from the animal kingdom — here are fifteen creatures who are all about the isolation.

Credit: Charles Dessalines D’ Orbigny via RawPixel

1. The Golden Mole of South Africa

These burrowing animals are fierce loners, “live almost exclusively underground,” and will defend their turf from visitors if need be.

Photo: Gary L. Clark via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

2. The Little Tinamou

This bird of Central and South America is notably “shy, secretive and solitary.”

Credit: Charles Dessalines D’ Orbigny via RawPixel

3. The Jaguar

Wikipedia doesn’t mince words: these cats just “generally avoid each other.”

Photo: 127071 via Pixabay

4. The Chinese Muntjac

The muntjac is a “solitary and crepuscular” species of small deer — and though Wikipedia won’t tell you this, it’s also extremely adorable.

Credit: John James Audubon via RawPixel

5. The Solitary Sandpiper

Right there in the name! This contrary shorebird not only migrates alone, they also like to situate themselves in ditches, which other wading birds struggle to access.

Photo: kuhnmi via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

6. The Moose

Deeply antisocial herbivores, these big cuties only meet up in mating season — and even that’s just once a year.

Photo: Helena via RawPixel

7. The Red Panda

Like the moose, red pandas tend to interact only for mating purposes. They much prefer to sleep on tree branches rather than spend time with each other.

Photo: Rhys Asplundh via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

8. The Screaming Hairy Armadillo

Literally screams if handled.

Credit: John Gerrard Keulemans via National Library NZ on The Commons/Flickr/public domain

9. The Roroa

The kiwi, a flightless bird native to New Zealand, is largely nocturnal and highly territorial, especially in the case of this species endemic to the country’s South Island — only four or five roroa will live in the space of a square kilometre.

Photo: Marcel Langthim via Pixabay

10. The Bear

“Overwhelmingly solitary,” and considered the most misanthropic of all carnivorous animals, bears like to emphasize this point with a dramatic flourish — whether climbing up the tallest trees in the Andes to avoid contact like the Spectacled bear, or swimming for entire days on end like the Polar bear.

Credit: RawPixel

11. The Octopus

“Most species are solitary,” says Wikipedia of the octopus, but numerous species are so well-concealed that identification by humans is tenuous at best, or, like the delightfully named Wunderpus, their discovery is only very recent.

Credit: Unknown via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

12. The Tamarisk Jird

For this “strictly solitary” rodent, “interactions between individuals are very rare.”

Photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

13. The American Badger

The badger “may spend much of the winter in cycles of torpor that last around 29 hours.” You and me both, kid.

Photo: Summer Anne Burton

14. The Sloth

Our low-energy, tree-loving friends “spend 90% of their time motionless,” although it’s worth noting the male three-toed sloth sees fit to use the remaining ten percent of available time throwing himself enthusiastically into “strongly polygamous” activity.

Illustration: R. Mintern via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

15. The Bony-Eared Assfish

Let’s all raise a glass to the Bony-Eared Assfish! Who could blame this species of cusk eel for living so far unfathomably away from everyone — up to 14,485ft below sea level — when saddled with a name like that.

Photo: Laura Vincent

A bonus animal: my parents’ resolutely unfriendly cat Poppy. On any given day she can be found squashed into this corner of the couch, deliberately facing away from everyone. If Poppy could work out a way to live 14,485 feet below sea level with only the Bony-Eared Assfish for company, I’m sure she’d gladly do it. Truly a queen of social distancing.

Food blogger and author from New Zealand. Writing at hungryandfrozen.com; Twitter at @hungryandfrozen; and exclusive stuff at Patreon.com/hungryandfrozen.

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