Red deer on Isle of Rum, Scotland. (Credits: Greg Albery/SWNS)
Old deer prefer their own company as they age, a new study has found.
Analysis of female wild red deer on the island of Rum shows that aging deer tend to: lead a solitary life in their advancing years.
The study was led by researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.
Lead author Dr. Greg Albery, of Oxford’s Department of Biology, said: ‘We found that deer’s social networks shrink as they age and interact less with others.
“This ‘social aging’ appears to be caused by older individuals choosing to live in more isolated locations and interact with fewer other deer in these sparse areas.” The team applied new methods of social network analysis to a 46-year-old data set consisting of more than 200,000 counting sightings of more than 3,500 female deer over their lifetimes.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Research senior author Dr. Josh Firth, also from the University of Oxford, said: ‘This new evidence of social aging in the wild shows the value of long-term data sets.
“By following many individuals at once throughout their lives, we can understand how and why their social interactions with each other change over time.”
The researchers said more work is now needed to understand exactly why aging deer are becoming less sociable.
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