To err is human, to forgive is animal

BY Rebecca Jacobson  January 30, 2014 at 1:00 AM EST


Redneck wallabies at Tier-und Vogelpark Reilingen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 4028mdk09

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” While conflict in any social group is inevitable, a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE found that animals, too, are capable of reconciling after fights.

Scientists from the University of Pisa, Italy, observed red-necked wallabies at the Tierparc Zoo in Berlin. In the wild, wallabies are solitary, but they frequently share feeding grounds. Occasionally, the marsupials get aggressive with each other.

They found that reconciliation depended on how intense the fight became. The wallabies demonstrated signs of making up after a low-intensity fight, grooming and playing with their former foe. Not only did they forgive, researchers found, but both victim and aggressor demonstrated reduced anxiety for both parties once they had reconciled.