Apr 11, 2008

Interesting tidbit about another rodent

Last month I learned squirrels are picky about who they hang out with (Blogpost here).

This month I learn yet another surprising tidbit about rodents -- this time about rats.

Apparently, before making a decision rats consider the amount of effort a task requires and if said effort is worth the reward.

In other words, according to this Animal Planet article:
A person buying a new car, for example, must weigh the cost and the effort needed to make payments versus the value of the car. Rats, and likely all rodents, do something similar, only under a lot more pressure.
How did scientists determine this?

They basically created a maze with several endings -- one ending had a lot of pellets while another one had only one pellet. In order to get to the high amount of food, the rat had to go through a difficult, exhausting trail. The low amount of food was a straight shot.

According to the findings:
At first the rats went for the easy pickings, but when they determined more sweets were available on the other side of the maze, they exerted additional effort, but only after a certain point. When the pain yielded too little gain, they stuck with the tiny treat.
In addition, as a result of having to make these high-stressed decisions, rats sometimes suffer from depression.

(Side note: I don't eve know why I read the mainstream media anymore. All the interesting and relevant news is on Animal Planet. Clearly)

The image above is by Socar Myles (cc) and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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